Construction is well underway on our Summer 2017 exhibit, ‘I Heart Carbon’. Building on the themes of ‘What Use Are Metals To Me?’ and ‘Water: Beneath the Surface’, this exhibit will invite visitors to explore their complex and intimate relationship with carbon while also celebrating human ingenuity, creativity, and the desire to understand out world.
But this exhibit did not start out that way.
Once the decision was made to make this year’s exhibit on carbon was made, the question was ‘What topics will we cover?’ Of course, it might seem obvious in today’s climate that the exhibit would be on climate change. But the very fact that so much is being done on this topic, the question was ‘what could we offer that was unique?’ With the limitations we faced, it was clear this was not going to be on climate change.
Or so I thought.
I began researching carbon and generating a short list of subjects we could engage our visitors with. Then it hit me – the exhibit concept which I felt could allow us to topical, controversial, and fun.
The concept was to enter into another world. Its title ‘Future Tense: The Rise of the Reptilians’.
Far in the future, our planet has warmed significantly – significantly enough that most of the planet is now hostile to human life. In this changed world, another species has arisen, a reptilian species. Not only has this species come to find most of the planet suitable, they have also become sentient.
As their species advanced, they followed many of the paths which we have. They build societies, art and culture flourished, they advanced their own scientific discoveries, and they built museums.
In one of those museums is hosted a history exhibit on climate change and its role in the evolution of their species. While fascinating aspects of carbon in this exhibit would be the same as in an exhibit seen today at a ‘human museum’, one element would be quite different – the gallery which shows how humanity’s contribution to climate change led to the destruction of humanity and was a catalyst for the rise of the reptilians.
But alas, it did not come to be – the reptiles were out. The key messages however, would remain pretty much the same. And for a while, so did part of the title - ‘Future Tense’.
While this title was good for the reptilian concept, it didn’t really capture the softened tone the exhibit was taking on. So I created several alternative titles. Some of these, which I thought fit the exhibit best, I presented internally for response.
The responses were lacking though. People thought through the options with about as much excitement as people sort through their laundry.
As time went on, I was becoming asked more frequently about the name. As time went on, I continued to generate more and more names which ranged from the serious to the silly.
And then during lunch one day the question on the title came up and I decided to share more of the possible titles. The first couple did not generate an emotional response, but did begin a discussion on the meanings, so they were out. However, when I said ‘I Heart Carbon’, one of our staff members almost jumped out of her chair in excitement. And so, a truly light-hearted name came to be the title of an exhibit which began as the complete opposite.
And as for the heart of the matter, ‘I Heart Carbon’ opens in April.