Dive In! Why this exhibition?

Dive In Exhibition, Wardlaw Museum, University of St Andrews

Last week we opened Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean, a new exhibition at the Wardlaw Museum that takes you under the waves to find out what’s happening in the deepest, most inaccessible parts of our planet.

It’ll introduce you to some weird and wonderful creatures; seals, colourful fish, and others you’ve possibly never heard of. But it’ll also show you some of the problems our ocean faces, all of them caused by humans.

It’s a bit of a change from our last big exhibition, which presented the bright, somewhat surreal art of Philip Colbert. So why have we moved on to a much more serious subject?

The Wardlaw Museum embraces the values of its parent University, which has put social responsibility as one of the key pillars of its strategy. The University aims to make the world a better place through innovation, and at the Wardlaw Museum we want to do the same. One way we can do that is by working with researchers at St Andrews to tackle the big problems our planet faces.

Our ocean is under threat, but there are things we can do to help. Though a serious subject, therefore, the exhibition isn’t all doom and gloom. There are reasons to be optimistic about the future. We’re very open about telling you, the visitor, how to make changes in your life that will improve the health of the ocean, and because what happens in the ocean is closely connected to what happens on land, it’ll improve the world for all of us.

The solutions are tailored to your circumstances. Not sure where to start with living more sustainably? We’ve got some solutions for you; it might be recycling an electrical item to reduce the need for deep sea mining, or finding out about seafood labelling to help protect fish stocks. And if you’re pretty confident about sustainability, we’ve got some ideas for you too; maybe travelling overland instead of taking that plane, or eating a plant-based diet for three months to tackle climate change. And if you’re somewhere in between? Don’t worry, you’ll find ideas that work for you as well.

Here we come to another reason why Dive In! is very much part of what the Wardlaw Museum is about. We see the exhibition as an experiment, and the Wardlaw Museum as our laboratory.  Can we actually, really use an exhibition to encourage people to live more sustainably? We think so, but we’re going to be doing research to find out whether our visitors really do make changes that protect our ocean and the planet, and what we did that helped. For that reason, when you visit you may be asked a few questions or be invited to take part in an online survey a few weeks later.

Call to action poster from the Dive In exhibition, Wardlaw Museum, University of St Andrews

This will help us understand how we really can make a difference, and help other museums do the same. It’s all part of our goal to reimagine what a university museum can be and to innovate, like our parent University.

We’ll be diving deeper (pun intended) into these ideas on the blog over the next few weeks, with guest posts from some of those who’ve put the exhibition together. In the meantime, why not visit the exhibition, take part in one of our events or visit the Dive In! website to find out more.

Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean is a partnership with the Scottish Oceans Institute and the People Ocean Planet initiative from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland. It has been generously funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Matt Sheard, Head of Experience and Engagement