CFP: NATHIST Annual Meeting 2017


ICOM NATHIST conference participants are invited to submit papers on the following topics. Spots fill up quickly, and those who are not chosen to present their papers may be asked to participate in the conference’s poster session. Abstracts are due by May 15, 2017. Presenters will receive notification if their abstract is accepted by July 24, 2017.



Development Models for Natural History Museums
Funding models for natural history museums are becoming increasingly complex and varied. Many museums have met this challenge with creativity, resulting in new types of memberships, reinvigorated donor centricity, and a more strategic approach to grant writing. This session will focus on successes and learnings in funds development for natural history museums.


Collections to Study Environmental Change
Museum collections have been used effectively to document and understand human impacts and make long-term contributions to the conservation of global biodiversity. This session will include papers in which natural history museum research has had, or will have, an effect on conservation, policy, or ethical considerations.


Nature, Ecology, and Psychology
Understanding the deep relationship between humans and nature and nature’s role in human culture is fundamental to an exploration of the Anthropocene as a social—as well as environmental— phenomenon. This session explores various ways in which natural history museums use and disseminate the emotive, empathetic side of the Anthropocene.


Evolution in a World of “Alternative Facts”
Oxford Dictionaries chose the word “post-truth” to characterize the year 2016. When interacting with a generation that consumes information from social media and other unreliable sources and has little patience with nuanced messaging, imparting scientific information and encouraging critical thought around issues like evolution takes on a new and challenging perspective. Even as, at least in some circumstances, the value of science as a paradigm is being questioned, the need for evidence-based practice has never been greater. This session will explore how museums can overcome these challenges when imparting information about evolution and other science topics.


Ways of Knowing the Anthropocene: Connections to Indigenous Cultures
As representatives of natural history museums, we can be deeply implicated in the processes of objectification and decontextualization of indigenous cultures and their tangible heritage. But we also have the power to reconnect our collections to the living universe, to bring the past to bare on the present, and to use our resources to lift up the stories of the people who are struggling to protect the living universe for the future. This session will feature museum professionals, artists, and scientists invested in bringing together scientific and indigenous voices.


Natural History Museums and Advocacy
Although many natural history museums are actively involved in advocacy, there are some who feel that this is inappropriate to the core concept of what a museum does. This session will explore the need, utility, and constraints of museums being involved in advocacy around biodiversity conservation and other topics.


Urban Biodiversity: Connecting Locally to Nature
For many museum visitors, urban biodiversity is the only opportunity they will ever have to experience wild animals up close. This connection to the wilderness, however oblique, can help form fundamental bonds to nature. At the same time, urban biodiversity is both a convenient and relevant topic of study for many natural history museums. This session will explore initiatives that research and celebrate investigations into urban wilderness, citizen science, and other in situ museum programs.


Exhibiting the Anthropocene: Visitor Experiences and Global Change
One of the most important ways for natural history museums to communicate with the public is through the medium of the exhibition. The topic of the Anthropocene is new for many museums, so exhibition product is only now being created in and around the Anthropocene as a topic. This session provides a platform for creators of exhibitions to share their artistry and perspectives on creating visitor experiences around the Anthropocene, biodiversity, and environmental protection.


Discovering the Anthropocene: Teaching and Learning About Global Human Impacts
Helping visitors of all ages understand that the Anthropocene requires an ability to uncover the complexity of forces simultaneously at work in a way that is impactful and inspires empathy. New programs and tools are being developed, which are explored in this session.


Putting it All Together: What Have We Learned?
Participants in this conference are presenting many different approaches to museum work in relation to the Anthropocene and leveraging collections to increase natural history museums’ contribution to conserving and interpreting the natural world. In this closing session, participants will explore a synthesis of what was presented and consider implications for our field.



Evolving Collections Concepts: Expanding Definitions and Relevance with Advancing Technology
The definition of what qualifies as, and constitutes, a natural sciences collection has changed over time in response to shifting public tastes, scientific paradigms, and the advent of new technologies. Collections are becoming increasingly viewed as essential and data-rich documentation of the natural world, with specimens and objects prepared and preserved according to evolving scientific standards to assure maximum long-term stability and scientific value. They are seen as mission-driving museum resources with ever-increasing relevance in this new Anthropocene time period. This workshop will catalyze a discussion on the potential need to expand the definition of what might constitute a natural sciences collection and the resource and infrastructural needs that would be necessary to accommodate that expanded definition.


Visual Thinking with Museum Data
“Big data” (extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions) are fundamental to our ability to comprehend the Anthropocene. New data and new questions rely on new methods of visualization to make them understandable to the museum-going public and usable to active research. This session will cover new methods of visualizing extremely large data sets as well as the research projects that these methods make possible.


Beyond Art and Science: Transdisciplinary Thinking in the Age of Humans
This workshop will explore the creation of new, cross-pollinated projects that blend art, science, and the humanities in response to the Anthropocene. The activity welcomes everyone from existing practitioners, who have had projects already, to those who are just beginning to think about the subject.


Monetizing Our Collections
Natural history museums are thinking ever more laterally about how to leverage their collections for improved business outcomes. This creative workshop will explore new mission-driven products and services as well as new engagement opportunities. It will provide a forum for exploring topics such as ethical responsibilities, return on investments, and museums’ authentic voices.


A follow-up from the Development Models for Natural History Museums session, this facilitated workshop will allow museum practitioners to test assumptions, develop logic models, and get practiced in donor-centric thinking.


International Law and Natural History Museums
Immunity from seizure, CITES, CBD, and maintaining nonprofit status are just a few of the pieces of legislation of which natural history museums must be aware. With a focus on United States and international legislation, this workshop will provide a chance for questions and answers common to our sector.


Tools for Learning About Sustainability: SustainABLE in Science Museums
At face value, sustainability is a simple concept, but competing definitions and approaches can quickly create confusion. In this sustainability workshop, we will begin by introducing and discussing definitions, models, and relevant theoretical frameworks. We will then introduce the SustainABLE kit of Arizona State University and use it as a foundation for discussing challenges faced when creating sustainable activities and programming with the aim of inspiring participants to develop their own sustainability programming.


Hard Topics with Broad Audiences
How do we engage broad audiences in the science around these topics without alienating them? This active workshop will explore strategies for building trust, facilitating safe environments for disagreement, and reframing information to connect with audiences’ existing values, concerns, and the systems-level thinking that connects individuals to larger phenomena.


Museum as Convener: Networking Meet-Up
Presented in an “un-conference” (open space) format, this informal workshop is a networking opportunity to facilitate open dialogue and innovative idea generation in a rich environment. At this workshop, questions will be posed at stations where brainstorming, feedback, and new idea generation can be documented and built upon by participants working in small groups.


Museum as Convener: Building and Benefiting from Interdisciplinary Networks
In this workshop, participants will engage with members of Pittsburgh’s CUSP network (educators, environmentalists, scientists, and artists) in activities that demonstrate strategies to foster strong connections and valuable information exchanges across disciplines. We will also explore the value of museums, hearing perspectives from outside the museum field through CUSP Pittsburgh members.


21st Century Naturalist
Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments have been building a partnership over the last 10 years. The 21st Century Naturalist Program is a joint initiative that engages school districts and community-based organizations, targeting different kinds of audiences than the traditional, general visiting public, and provides professional development to support staff. What content knowledge, skills, and values are important for the 21st Century Naturalist? In this workshop, the education team at Carnegie Museum of Natural History will invite critique of its project’s working definition of a 21st Century Naturalist through participatory activities.


Ethics in a World After Truth
This informal discussion group will explore ethics in natural history museums in a world where science as a paradigm is coming into question while the planet’s ecosystems are becoming increasingly imperiled. What are the roles, potentials, and constraints for natural history museums over the next decades?


Please follow link to complete the form below to submit a paper. Abstracts are due by May 15.


Additional questions about the call for papers can be submitted to Lulu Hoeller at