For the first time since 2019, St Andrews University will be hosting in-person graduations. To mark three whole weeks of graduations – covering not only graduates from 2022, but from 2021 and 2020 as well – many high-profile names will be receiving honorary degrees.
Sir Kenneth Dalglish MBE will be one of them, receiving an honorary degree on the 21st of June in the Younger Hall in St Andrews.
Kenny Dalglish was one of Scotland’s greatest footballers, achieving great success at both Celtic and Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s, he then went on to manage both clubs. Aside from his glittering footballing achievements domestically and internationally, he is also known for his charity work, most notably founding The Marina Dalglish Appeal to help raise awareness and money to treat cancer.
With the excitement of graduation and what the future holds for our graduates, the University of St Andrews Boswell Collection of Contemporary Scottish Art offers a look back to the 1980s – to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool and Scotland heydays.
As the title of this artwork suggests, Edinburgh-based design company Atelier E.B. – artists Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie – were influenced by Dalglish’s Scotland career and of the male-dominated footballing culture of the 1980s. At the same time, by putting their own mark on the famous Scottish strip, it becomes markedly more striking as a commentary on gender, fashion, and representation.
Replacing the traditional shorts with cream silk shorts offers the viewer to think about the disjunction between womenswear and football wear, and how this plays an unconscious role in the suppression of women’s football from the cultural norm. By only very slightly turning one item of clothing, it turns ‘strip’ into ‘outfit’, ‘kit’ into ‘costume’; it instantaneously removes its male-dominated sportily function, rendered useless by the viewer’s unconscious bias.
In addition to this, the pixelated badge is a subtle yet intelligent way of casting light onto the censorship of women’s football in Scotland and in the UK in general through the 20th century.
From 1921 until December 1969, women’s football was banned by the FA. In the space of two years after the ban lifted, UEFA realised the pace at which women’s football was growing (much thanks to the efforts of England in the 1966 World Cup), and its governing bodies voted to create official status of women’s football in national associations (voted 31 for and 1 against, the sole vote against by Scotland).
Since 1971, the FA has reluctantly been handing over more opportunities, money, and interest into the women’s game – a sentiment of reluctance that reached into popular culture with the 1980 movie production of Gregory’s Girls: a naturally gifted striker who outshines her male counterparts despite the sexist misgivings of her coach.
Thankfully, the women’s game has come a long way since then, but there is still some distance to go before it reaches the popularity and fame that footballers such as the famous Kenny Dalglish – King Kenny – experienced as a player.
He remains a beloved figure of Scottish football, recognised for his achievements and charitable efforts on and off the pitch, and on the 21st of June with an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews.
Written by Struan Watson, Visitor Services Facilitator and Collections Assistant with University of St Andrews Museums
Over the next two years the nine works in the groundbreaking Significant Others series of annotated photographs by artist, poet and all round polymath will be rotated at the Wardlaw Museum.
Throughout history, art has been used to express, whether it was to recreate what one was seeing in a landscape, portrait, or still life, or to create something completely new like artists did during movements like Dadaism or Surrealism. Artists have taken their chosen mediums and used their work to convey messages, and many have taken the brush, pen, or camera to represent themselves and their identities.
Maud Sulter did just that; she reflected her identity and her experiences in every facet of her work – photography, poetry, curating, and more. Despite the unique qualities of her work, Sulter was certainly not the first to do such a thing; there is a history of photographers representing parts of their identities, either their personal identity or something larger, like communal or cultural.
A relatively lesser-known, self-taught photographer working and living in Jim Crow era South-Eastern United States, Hugh Mangum’s (1897-1922) work offers a beautiful insight into the identities of the people of the United States. Mangum was a traveling portraitist working primarily in North Carolina and Virginia in the shadow of the segregationist laws of the time, and he welcomed his racially and economically diverse clientele into his temporary studios.
The rediscovery of his work in the 1970s brought an astonishing collection of anonymous portraits of people from the American South at an extremely tempestuous time in the country’s history. The glass plate negatives feature multiple images, a sign of the frequency of his work and the building of relationships between figures that were unlikely pairings. As art historian Deborah Willis stated, his photographs “show us lives marked both by notable affluence and hard work, all imbued with a strong sense of individuality, self-creation and often joy.”
Born Gyula Halász, Brassaï (1899-1984) was a Hungarian-born French photographer, known primarily for his dramatic photographs of Paris at night. Brassaï was passionate about exploring his beloved city of Paris. In the early stage of his artistic career in Paris, Brassaï disliked photography, but found it necessary for journalistic assignments and eventually found unique aesthetic qualities in the medium.
Brassaï began photographing the streets of Paris at night, dimly lit and seemingly desolate – very different from the Paris that was known during the day. Even with a lack of human subjects, there is a quality to Brassaï’s work that brings out the appreciation of a city that held his life and did the same for so many others. His post Second World War work, focused on a city rebuilding itself, emphasises the importance of place and refuge in one’s identity.
Ingrid Pollard (b.1953) is a British media artist, photographer, and researcher. Throughout her work Pollard has created a social practice concerned with representation, history, and landscape with reference to race, difference, and the materiality of lens-based media – similar to values of Sulter’s work. Yet Pollard has a completely distinct portfolio.
In the 1980s, she was part of a group of British artists, including Lubaina Himid and Maud Sulter, who championed black creative practice, showcasing her work in group exhibitions such as The Thin Black Line at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1985). Pollard’s work uses portraiture photography and traditional landscape images to explore what she believed to be social constructs, such as Britishness or racial difference. In much of her photography, Pollard references how the past has directly influenced what it means to be black in Britain through colonial connections—working the past into the present to reflect either her own or a familiar group’s identity and how it came to be.
Cindy Sherman (b.1954) is an American photographer who works primarily in self-portraiture, depicting herself in various costumes and identities to make herself virtually unrecognizable. Sherman’s breakthrough series is considered to be her “Untitled Film Stills”, 70 black-and-white photographs depicting Sherman in stereotypical female roles in film.
In the 1980s, Sherman’s self-portraiture evolved to be a bit more extravagant. Sherman began using makeup, costume, lighting, and facial expressions to completely transform herself. Sherman conceals her identity while simultaneously being the star of her entire career. The photographs bend what we associate with identity—clothing choices, makeup, mannerisms, and more, things that make everyone an individual. Sherman studies these and imitates them in order to completely alter her own identity. Without the knowledge of who Sherman is and her practice, a large number of these photographs could deceive an audience.
Each of these photographers above explore identity in different ways – changing themselves, capturing their surroundings, or photographing their communities. How do you explore your identity through creativity? Is it through photography like Maud Sulter and these artists, or maybe writing poetry, or even something completely your own?
Written by Samantha Hillsman, a Masters student in Museum and Gallery Studies and part of the group who have curated Maud Sulter: Portraits of a Family Tree at the Wardlaw Museum.
Most people do not know the name William Scheves, despite the fact that he was one of the most powerful men in Scotland in the late 1400s. Those who are familiar with the name may simply associate Scheves with his failed political career and his fateful friendship with the unpopular King James III. However, there is much more to Scheves than this maligned story would have it.
Scheves was a true Scottish renaissance man with a great passion for both science and academia as well as arts and culture. As a leading Scottish intellectual in the 15th century, it is unsurprising that Scheves held deep connections to the town of St. Andrews. Scheves studied at the university during the 1450s and served as archbishop of the town from 1479 to 1497. In the period between his studies at St. Andrews and his tenure as archbishop, Scheves ventured abroad to continue his education, most likely ending up in Leuven, in modern-day Belgium.
While abroad, Scheves’ education focused primarily on medicine and astronomy. When he returned to Scotland in the 1470s it was this medical training that enabled him to secure a position on the royal court, acting as a physician to King James III. The young king greatly favored Scheves and went so far as to instigate the removal of the then-archbishop of St. Andrews in order to appoint Scheves as his successor. Thus, Scheves reached the peak of his political career as both one of the king’s closest confidants and the new archbishop of the most important church in Scotland.
However, Scheves’ rise to power angered many. At the time King James was criticized widely across Scotland for his tendency to appoint his favorites to key positions of command, over better-born and perhaps more qualified noblemen. As it was rumored by many that Scheves was an illegitimate child of non-baronial blood, his rise to archbishop was nothing short of scandalous. In 1482, Scheves’ opponents attempted to remove him, citing his low birth status and lack of experience. While this operation failed, Scheves’ political career eventually came to a downfall six years later when King James III was killed in a battle against rebel Scottish forces, led by his own son. With the death of King James, Scheves subsequently found himself expelled from both the church and the state.
While Scheves’ legacy is often characterized by his political rise and downfall, this story fails to acknowledge his contribution to art and culture. The bronze medallion pictured below exemplifies Scheves’ active engagement with the arts.
Created by well-known Flemish artist, Quentin Metsys, the medallion was commissioned by Scheves when he visited Rome in 1491. While the artist Quentin Metsys is better known as a painter (and a famous one at that, with numerous paintings in leading museums like the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art) he was also known to practice metalwork. Fellow patrons of Metsys’s medals included prominent intellectual figures like Desiderius Erasmus, a famous Dutch philosopher and one of the leading academics of the northern Renaissance. The design of the medal itself was inspired by traditional Roman medallions reserved for celebrating important leaders in the Roman empire. As Scheves was depicted by such an acclaimed artist in the same manner as distinguished leaders and scholars, the medallion symbolizes both his esteemed status as an intellectual as well as his awareness of greater artistic and cultural trends across Europe.
Scheves’ connection to artistic and intellectual circles in Europe is further illustrated by his extensive book collection. More than forty books bearing Scheves’ signature survive to this day, giving an impression of just how large and significant his collection was.
While Scheves is often looked down upon due to his association with King James III, this portrayal is ultimately unfair to his life’s greater work. As a physician, politician, clergyman, art patron, and intellectual, Scheves embodies the quintessential Renaissance man with his interest in both science and the liberal arts. Scheves’ embodiment of Renaissance ideals is particularly notable because at the time, Scotland was not widely associated with the Renaissance. Up until recently, the idea of the Renaissance as a cultural movement was often limited to Italy while Scotland and the rest of the northern region were afterthoughts within popular conception. However, Scheves epitomizes how Renaissance ideals spread beyond Italy into the Northern regions during the latter half of the 15th century. As a man that was ever learning and engaging with the contemporary issues and intellectual trends of his day, Scheves effectively marks himself as part of the often-overlooked Scottish renaissance. This embodiment of Renaissance ideals suggests that Scheves should ultimately be regarded as a figure of Scottish national pride rather than neglect and disdain.
Written by Cally Wuthrich, University of St Andrews student and volunteer with University Museums.
In the Wardlaw Museum, there stands a carved oak statue of a man bearing a diagonal cross. The wood is elegantly worked, with curves hollowed out to form delicate drapes of cloth, and the piece has been oriented so the grain suggests wrinkles on his tired, downcast face. The man is Saint Andrew, carrying the cross he died on.
Over the centuries, many people have looked at this carving, just as you are now. However, instead of standing alone behind glass in a museum, it would have stood amongst other religious objects, as part of a screen or altar display for the cult of Andrew, a system of devotion which venerated Andrew the Apostle – the first disciple to be chosen by Jesus, and Peter the Apostle’s brother. Although it may have started as a way for Christians to pay respects to one of their religion’s most important founders, the cult has meant different things for different groups of people. Over time and place, it has been a driver of economic development, a bestower of power, and a promotor of community spirit and brotherhood.
The cult’s role as a driver of economic development can be seen here in St Andrews. During the medieval era, pilgrims flocked here to see Andrew’s relics. They came from all around Europe, meaning that they were travelling long distances and required convenient transportation, leading to fording bridges and founding ferry services so that they could cross the Firth of Forth. This travelling also took a long time, resulting in a string of inns which provided food and shelter for weary pilgrims heading to and returning from St Andrews. Once in the town itself, the pilgrims would want tokens such as pilgrim badges as proof that they had made a pilgrimage, and to absorb some of the relics’ healing powers to take back home. This encouraged a bustling market with skilled craftsmen that could produce those badges, as well as anything else a pilgrim could need.
Towards the later half of the medieval era, the cult also brought economic development via an influx of students, who came to study theology and law before taking up positions in the church. Although the cult is much less religiously important today, its economic legacy lives on – in the last academic year alone, tuition fees for every student at the University added up to £121.9 million.
The University also allowed the cult of Andrew to play the role of bestower of power. Medieval towns and cities in Europe founded institutes of higher education to display their wealth and importance, which in turn helped legitimise their country’s right to self-governance – how could a nation be trusted to rule itself if it couldn’t educate its own people?
Though universities are not quite so rare these days, there are other ways in which the cult has been used by recent governments to legitimise themselves. In the 1980s, Romania’s first president, Nicolae Ceauşescu, wanted to prove that his Communist government could measure up to the old monarchy, which had ended in 1947. He did so by emphasising Romania’s history of Christianity.
According to official church history textbooks, the ancestors of Romanians had been evangelized by Saint Andrew himself. While travelling through Dobruja in the winter, he took shelter from the elements and wild animals in a cave. Desiring water, he struck the ground with his staff, and a spring sprang forth. Its waters had healing powers, which he used to heal the local Romanians, thus converting them to Christianity.
Ceauşescu pushed this rendition of history to support his claims that Romanians were the first people to occupy Romania. Thus, they owned the land, and had the right to rule over themselves, via a president that they elected – him. However, Ceauşescu only allowed the people to govern themselves in the way someone agrees to a request when a gun is held to their head. Eventually, in 1989, they seized the right to self-rule in its rawest form: a revolution, culminating in his execution.
Ultimately, Ceauşescu failed to abuse the cult of Andrew to feed nationalism and instill a sense of superiority in his people. But elsewhere, the cult of Andrew has been a promotor of brotherhood with communities both local and global, while still encouraging the expression of national identity.
The use of Saint Andrew as a symbol of national pride might be most familiar from expressions of Scottish identity – after all, he is Scotland’s patron saint, and his cross is emblazoned right across the Scottish flag. This is especially true when the proclamation of Scottish identity is an act of defiance against those who seek to quell it. For instance, the famous Scottish rebel William Wallace’s battle cry was “Saint Andrew mot us speed!”, meaning “May Saint Andrew support us!”
This was true outside Scottish borders as well. As globalisation occurred, Scots took their culture and their cult with them, establishing societies in the name of Saint Andrew wherever they went, like in my home country of Hong Kong. But rather than using these organisations to insulate themselves from the international community, these organisations were often charities that helped the needy. A notable example is the St Andrew’s Society of the State of New York, which was founded by Scottish immigrants to the USA in 1729, making it the oldest charity in New York.
However, Saint Andrew does not belong exclusively to Scotland and the Scottish diaspora – Ukraine and Russia also view him as a symbol of national pride and claim him as their patron saints. This stems from a legend about his travels, documented in The Tales of the Bygone Years.
According to the Tales, Andrew was travelling to Kherson from Sinope (in modern-day Turkey), when he realised he was close to the Dneiper. He followed it upstream until he reached some hills, whereupon he stopped, prayed, erected a cross, and told his followers, “See ye these hills? So shall the favour of God shine upon them that on this spot a great city shall arise.”
Eventually, a great city indeed arose: Kyiv. It was almost as if Andrew had seen the future (or rather, as if the authors of The Tales of the Bygone Years had manipulated their past to have a wondrous origin). At the time, there was no Ukraine or Russia. They were all one people – the Kievan Rus – and Kyiv was their capital city.
Though the Kievan Rus were later fragmented into parts that would someday become the two separate countries, due to a Mongol invasion in 1240, their shared history gives Ukrainians and Russians a special brotherhood that some still acknowledge. Perhaps it can last as long as Andrew’s brotherhood with Peter, still going strong after two millennia: in 1969, Pope Paul VI received Cardinal Gordon Gray at Rome, to give him part of Andrew’s skull as a replacement for the relics that had been destroyed in St Andrews during the Reformation of 1559. Standing in St Peter’s to welcome the first Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh since the Reformation, the Pope simply said, “Peter greets his brother Andrew.”
Coming back to the museum, perhaps the expression on Andrew’s face makes a little more sense. All the roles that he and his cult have played, and continue to play, must make up a burden infinitely heavier than the cross at his side. Yet he still bears his cross; still marches on, a symbol of brotherhood and pride in one’s identity even in the face of adversity.
Written by Patsy Ng, 2nd year student of Computing Science at the University of St Andrews and volunteer with University of St Andrews Museums.
When walking down Market Street on a busy afternoon in St Andrews, a myriad of different languages can often be heard. While it may seem surprising for a small town in northeast Fife to have such a global population, in actuality, this international demographic has been central to the story of St Andrews for centuries. Today, most people are attracted to the town because of the university or golf course, however back in medieval period, visitors were drawn to the town for a different reason: that being pilgrimage.
A pilgrimage is a journey taken to express spiritual beliefs and devotion. In the Middle Ages, it was common for both men and women to embark on pilgrimages to sites of religious importance in an effort to absolve themselves from past sins and thus ensure their entrance to heaven. From the early twelfth century onwards, the town of St. Andrews was one such holy site that pilgrims flocked to for one specific reason: to revere the relics of Saint Andrew himself.
According to legend, the bones of Christ’s apostle, Saint Andrew, were carried to Scotland from Greece by the monk Regulus in the 350s. The far more likely story is that the relics arrived in St Andrews from northern England centuries later. While the relics only included three fingers, a kneecap, upper arm bone, and a tooth, this was enough to put the town on the map as a site for international pilgrimage as relics from Jesus’s twelve disciples were extremely rare in northern Europe in the twelfth century.
The arrival of Saint Andrews’ relics changed more than just the name of the town (as it was still known as Kilrymont until around 1200). In the years leading up to 1100, the number of pilgrims traveling to see the relics was so large that Queen Margaret of Scotland established a free ferry across the Firth of Forth to aid pilgrims on their journey northward. In the town itself, a hostel specifically for housing pilgrims was established at St Leonards. Pilgrimage even influenced the urban layout of the town. As the relics were housed in the Cathedral, the town’s streets were built to accommodate the circular procession of pilgrims up and down North and South Street, with Market Street providing food, trade, and entertainment for the people that came on pilgrimage.
Map of St Andrews from the early 1580s by John Geddy. While not entirely geographically accurate, the Geddy Map provides an idealized conception of the town and gives a sense of how the flow of pilgrims would have travelled to the Cathedral by progressing up South Street and down North Street.
“S. Andre sive Andreapolis Scotiae Universitas Metropolitana.” (National Library of Scotland MS.20996)
One such item that would have been sold by merchants to pilgrims on Market Street were pilgrim badges like the ones pictured below. These badges were produced in large quantities and often depicted Saint Andrew on his trademark diagonal cross, which is replicated on the Scottish flag. Pilgrims would buy badges to wear as souvenirs to mark the completion of their journey to St Andrews and indicate their special status as a protected traveler.
By the fifteenth century, the number of pilgrims traveling to St Andrews had greatly decreased. The popularity of St Andrews as a site for pilgrimage waned as other shrines throughout northwestern Europe were established. With its harbor, castle, cathedral, and university, by the fifteenth century St Andrews had become a bustling town that may not have been as attractive to pilgrims as a site of spiritual transformation.
While St Andrews may no longer be known as a site for traditional pilgrimage, to this day it still attracts people from all over the world. International students, golfers, and tourists continue to flock to this northeast corner of Fife, often following the same route across the Firth of Forth that hordes of pilgrims traversed hundreds of years ago.
Written by Cally Wuthrich, 4th year student of Art History and Management at the University of St Andrews and volunteer with University of St Andrews Museums.
The cult of a saint The power of the Church. A city defined by them both.
Cult, Church, City: Medieval St Andrews, a new exhibition at the Wardlaw Museum, brings together medieval artefacts from St Andrews and the rest of the UK to explore the town in the Middle Ages.
Despite its size and location, St Andrews has never been a backwater. In fact during the medieval period it was quite the opposite; a bustling trading port, a centre of spiritual government, a pilgrimage site for the veneration of Scotland’s patron saint, and an ancient seat of learning. It was also visually stunning, as demonstrated by the collection of objects on display, brought together from collections across the country for the first time in 500 years.
The exhibition invites you into a mysterious world, with beliefs, priorities, worldviews and ways of living very different to those we experience today. It also invites you to walk the streets of the town and see the sites; many of the places referenced in the displays today lay in ruins, while some, such as the tolbooth that used to stand on Market Street, have gone altogether. Digital reconstructions from the medieval period, based on detailed research carried out at the University of St Andrews, show the splendour of the cathedral as it was, the long gone cloisters of St Salvator’s College and more besides.
The exhibition is the work of Professor Michael Brown and Dr Bess Rhodes, world experts in the town during this period, and is a collaborative partnership between the Museums of the University of St Andrews, the Schools of History and Computer Science, the St Andrews Institute of Medieval Studies, and the Institute of Scottish Historical Research. It is based on the book Medieval St Andrews: Church, Cult, City (2017); edited by Michael Brown, along with Professor Katie Stevenson, Vice Principal of Collections at the University of St Andrews. The book will be available in the Wardlaw Museum Shop along with a new publication created specially for the exhibition, Voices of the Past by Bess Rhodes and Michael Brown, which delves deeper into the stories told by the objects on display.
The exhibition takes visitors through four sections, each exploring a different aspect of the town and each with their own objects to uncover. Cult investigates Saint Andrew and his devotees, who travelled from all over the British Isles and further afield to pay their respects to his relics. Church uncovers the now almost unimaginable power of the bishops and archbishops that sat in St Andrews and shows some stunning artefacts, including a brightly coloured causable, or priest’s robe, on loan from the V&A Museum in London. Burgh – defined as an autonomous region, often a town with a degree of self-governance – explores how St Andrews governed itself, and its relationship with the surrounding areas. Finally, in Reformation, uncover how the town changed as a result of the religious turmoil that marked the end of the medieval period.
Alongside the exhibition is John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland, which is on loan from the British Library with the support of the Helen Hamlyn Trust. This rare document is the first detailed map of Scotland, created by the English spy John Hardyng in the 1450s. The map was created in a failed attempt to encourage the English king to claim sovereignty over Scotland, with the ultimate intention of conquest.
Along with the exhibition comes a varied programme of in-person and online events for all ages, interests and levels of knowledge. Take a mini-pilgrimage with expert Dr Ian Bradley, explore how the town has changed on an evening walk with Dr Bess Rhodes, discuss religious division as part of our online Critical Conversations or catch John Hardyng before he takes his secrets to England in our SpyCatcher medieval escape room experience. To find out about the events on offer take a look at our website.
Cult, Church, City: Medieval St Andrews and Treasures on Tour: John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland are both on at the Wardlaw Museum until 3 July 2022. Entry is free.
In 2022 we celebrate Visit Scotland’s Year of Stories, and the Wardlaw Museum has plenty of stories to tell through our vast collection and busy activities programme of exhibitions and events which can be accessed both in person and/or online.
Why is storytelling important?
At their root, stories help us form an emotional connection and make us care about our surroundings. The emotional connection formed by storytelling is so astounding that it can prompt our bodies to release Oxytocin, the ‘feel-good chemical’ and inspire people to make a difference in the world.
Storytelling is a way to pass on knowledge and tradition, allowing us to interpret history and expand our understanding of the world. Specifically, our museums use storytelling to share the significance of St Andrews’ contributions to the advancement of education, science, art, religion and more. With an everchanging line up of temporary exhibitions, there is no end to the possibilities for storytelling at the University of St Andrews Museums.
Why use different methods of learning?
Learning is not one-size-fits-all. Storytelling can take many forms, including through text, audio, images, video, or any combination of these formats.
Employing a variety of storytelling methods is a fantastic way to reach leave a lasting impression many people as possible.
How do we currently tell stories?
Museums must hold storytelling at its heart to illuminate the wonders of a fascinating collection to every visitor. Museums tell stories primarily and traditionally through exhibitions and coming soon we will have two exhibitions Church,Cult,City: Medieval St Andrews and an exciting touring exhibition from the British Library with Treasures on Tour: John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland. These exhibitions will use various methods of storytelling incorporating interpretive text and links to online information that can be accessed by visitors.
As technology has advanced, our museums have adapted to engage a broader audience through digital storytelling. On site, smartphone users can utilise our Smartify audio tours to explore stories behind collection highlights. If you’re unable to make it to our museums, Smartify tours can also be viewed online from home.
Many more of the University of St Andrews Museums storytelling resources can be accessed from home, including:
Why not try out some of these different storytelling resources for yourself and see how they inspire you?
“Dive In! Protecting Our Ocean” at the Wardlaw Museum is an urgent call to action to stir citizen engagement on climate action. We provide audiences with actions that they can take in their daily lives to support environmental sustainability.
But museums need to take action to become more sustainable too.
Exhibitions have large carbon footprints. Museums across the globe stage major blockbuster exhibitions that showcase highlight artefacts on loan from other museums. Loans are packed up (in custom-made wooden crates and non-recyclable materials like bubble wrap) and shipped across counties, countries or entire continents in specialist climate-controlled vans or air freight. On arrival at an exhibition venue, loans are met by a courier from the lending institution who usually travels two round trips to oversee the installation of objects in an exhibition and its journey home.
The production of exhibitions is no less resource intensive. Single-use graphics, display plinths and bespoke acrylic mounts for artefacts are produced for exhibitions, and then disposed of after the exhibition closes.
But Dive In! is an exhibition; so aren’t the Museums of the University of St Andrews just hypocrites, for producing an exhibition that tells everyone else to be sustainable?
For us, it is important to practise what we preach. Sustainability was at the core of our thinking when we developed Dive In! We worked closely with the exhibition designers, Aurelia Cloup and James Poppa, to build sustainability into our design choices and also question and unlearn some of our usual exhibition processes:
‘There is a lot that needs and can be done to address sustainability in Museums, but critically you can’t aim to stir engagement on climate action without questioning the design choices that need to be made to deliver an exhibition like Dive in! There is never one magic green answer to the various parameters involved but I think that honesty and transparency are key to inspire any behaviour change and that recognising potential for improvement is as important as celebrating successes. For Dive in! we’ve questioned every design choice we’ve made through the lens of long-term reusability for future exhibitions and recyclability where single use was the only option.’ Aurelia Cloup, Exhibition Designer
‘By working closely with the client team from the outset, we were able to understand why the exhibition’s material choices and printing methods needed to be considered. Through our work, we believe we have helped create an exhibition that provides thoughtful and engaging interpretation, and where its recyclability or reusability are as important as its accessibility.’ James Poppa, Graphic Designer
Guided by Aurelia and James’ research into sustainable products, we sourced recyclable graphic materials, such as paper wall coverings instead of vinyl (plastic = landfill). We also avoided commissioning any custom-made acrylic display stands for artefacts, which we knew would never be used again. Display furniture has been designed for use in future exhibitions.
To minimise the carbon footprint of Dive In! we selected exhibits from the University’s own collections, rather than relying on loans that needed to be transported long distances. Any artefacts that we have borrowed have been sourced from local museums.
Dive In! has helped us to become more environmentally aware in our museum practice. Looking ahead, our learning from the project will help us develop more sustainable exhibitions in the future.
Claire Robinson, Collections and Exhibitions Curator
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.
You’ve probably met people who say “why should I change?”, “I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference” or “why should I change when others don’t?”Maybe you have thought it yourself.
It’s true that we need governments and corporations to step up to the challenge of climate change and biodiversity loss. But it’s also true that the decisions of most governments and corporations are driven by the expectations, demands and choices made by citizens. As others have said: Lifestyle change and system change are two sides of the same coin.
voices and choices of everyday people therefore give direction and momentum to the bigger system changes. And those system changes enable more and faster lifestyle change.
What’s more, just as there are potentially calamitous tipping points in the climate and ecosystems, there are also tipping points for behaviour change. We’ve seen human behaviours around consumption and waste of resources tip into widespread bad habits. What we need to do now is to tip it back the other way, so that an accumulation of good behaviours amongst citizens and organisations become good habits, and that those start to be seen and accepted as socially normal. This is where we can take the leap from behaviour change to social and cultural change that can really accelerate positive outcomes for people and planet.
Sociologists tell us about the importance of ‘social norms’ and ‘social identity’ and their role in shaping our behaviours and actions as individuals. What’s really exciting about this is that we don’t actually need to convince everybody to change for the better: we just need to convince enough people to make personal changes and to make those changes visible or known to their friends, family and colleagues, and our tendency to copy those around us will do the rest.
If we go back to the title of this blog… you’ll notice that we actually asked, ‘why behavioural change’, rather than ‘why behaviour change’?
At the level of individuals and households, a tangible behaviour change is indeed the goal. But we need to recognise that getting to that point is a transitional journey. Most people need quite a lot of lead-in before making the leap to deliberate and positive behaviour change. As such, we think about behavioural change as including developing awareness
and understanding, to shifting values and attitudes, adopting good intentions and finding the agency (ability) to make changes… before an actual behaviour change happens.
This way of thinking about behavioural change aligns well with the concept of ‘ocean literacy’, which recognises multiple dimensions that include these psychological precursors to behaviour change. There is a big drive on for improving Ocean Literacy at the moment, as part of the UN Ocean Decade (2021-30). To this end, we recently surveyed Fife residents to understand their awareness, attitudes and actions towards the ocean environment, including climate-related behaviours. We will publish results soon on the People Ocean Planet website: A Fife-Eye View.
Behavioural change is a massive and complex area of work. Unfortunately, its commercial (mis)use has contributed to driving over-consumption of resources and all the collateral damage that can cause. But we can turn the tide and use similar methods to achieve positive outcomes for people and planet – if human behaviour can create a problem, then it can also fix it. Dive In! is a public exhibition taking up this challenge. It aims to motivate individuals with knowledge, asking people to make and socialise their positive changes, and to ease those changes with some readily accessible tools and information to help us turn good intentions in to action.
Dr Chris Leakey, Coordinator of the People Ocean Planet initiative at MASTS.
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.
The importance of the ocean cannot be understated, but it is often underestimated.
Seafood is an obvious benefit we gain: not only a nutritious source of protein, but also the basis of jobs and income for many coastal communities. At the global scale, small-scale fisheries are hugely important for the economic stability of many coastal districts. Also, seafood is often (but not always) a source of animal protein with a relatively low impact on the climate. Preferably from a local source, small pelagic fish (e.g. sprats, mackerel, herring) and farmed shellfish (e.g. mussels) can even have a lower carbon footprint than many plant-based protein options. But… all these benefits are undermined if we don’t make sustainable seafood choices, which means making sure we choose fishing and fish-farming practices that don’t damage the environment or catch so many fish that the wild stocks can’t recover naturally.
We all love a day at the beach. Those of us who venture on to, in to and under the water’s surface swear by the restorative, thrilling and life-affirming feelings this brings. The physical health benefits of walking, running, swimming or kayaking on or near the sea need no explanation, but research has also now shown the fantastic mental health benefits of this kind of connection with nature. What’s more, the better the health of our marine environment… with clean water and abundant wildlife… the better it is for us too.
The ocean environment has been providing energy for our homes and vehicles for a long time. Although we are now all too familiar with its climate consequences, North Sea oil and gas has been fundamental to our daily lives. Now, as we accelerate our transition to low-carbon energy systems, the ocean environment is again proving its worth. Offshore windfarms are going to be a significant part of our energy future; tidal energy potential is starting to reveal itself; and although slower to develop, wave energy remains an exciting possible source of clean and renewable energy.
The physics and chemistry of the ocean function on a massive scale. What happens in distant waters, in the Arctic and in the middle of the Atlantic, has very real consequences for our experience of climate and weather in Scotland, the UK and Europe. The many ways in which a rapidly changing climate effects water temperature, salinity and currents, for example, triggers a complex sequence of knock-on effects that we experience as unpredictable and unseasonal weather systems, and as changes to the creatures appearing near our shores. The ocean is, in many ways, Planet Earth’s climate-control system… and that system is on the verge of breakdown. To give the ocean its best chance of regaining control, we need to do everything we can to keep the ocean healthy and functioning in the way nature intended. In other words, the more we can reduce other pressures on the ocean environment, the easier it will be for it to get on with regaining control of our climate and weather systems.
As well as these important climate impacts playing out in distant waters, many coastal areas are also at the front line of climate change. Sea-level rise, storm surges and coastal flooding are a clear and present danger for many people who live in low-lying areas, with ‘climate-migration’ likely to become a phrase we all become familiar with as people try to unliveable conditions. But this problem would be far worse without the help of nature. Natural habitats, like sand dunes and salt marshes, reefs and kelp forests, do wonders to protect land, our homes and our infrastructure from worse outcomes. So protecting, restoring and allowing the recovery of many aspects of nature can help us adapt to the climate-driven changes that are already happening…
…and many of these very same habitats also often serve to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere, helping with longer-term mitigation of climate change. This ‘Blue Carbon’ benefit from marine habitats is a current focus for many marine scientists, as they try to better understand which habitats are best for locking carbon away and how to protect them from damage. Saltmarsh, dunes, mussel and oyster beds, seagrass and the deep mud of Scotland’s sealochs are amongst those habitats that benefit us and the planet in this and many other ways.
Clearly the ocean is of paramount importance, for a healthy planet and for the well-being of humankind. It may feel distant and alien, but we cannot afford to overlook it. Our next blog will explore the multitude of ways in which our lives and choices have consequences for the ocean. Some of these will be no big revelation, but others are less obvious and may even surprise you.
Dr Chris Leakey, Coordinator of People Ocean Planet, MASTS