In May 2020 the British Museum will present its first major exhibition on the history of the Arctic and its people, highlighting how human-led climate change is altering the landscape and traditional way of life.
It's one of the most extreme places on earth but the Arctic has been home to resilient communities for neatly 30,000 years. Local communities have learned to adapt and even thrive in this region, passing down cultural values and skills to the next generation but today, climate change is transforming the Arctic at the fastest rate in human history, twice as fast as anywhere else on earth, and for the people and animals who call it home, it's getting harder to keep up.
Scientists predict that the Arctic will be ice-free in 80 years, which not only means massive changes for the Arctic people but for the rest of the world too. The Arctic: culture and climate exhibition at the British Museum will examine the effects of climate change "through the eyes of contemporary Arctic communities" and see what lessons can be gleaned from them, as the world struggles with more extreme weather events.
The museum claims the exhibition is the "largest and most diverse [Arctic] collection ever displayed in the UK." Objects from the museum's own collection will feature alongside pieces from international lenders and commissions. Some artefacts include treasures uncovered from the Arctic's melting permafrost.
"From rare 28,000-year-old archaeological finds excavated from the thawing ground in Siberia, unique tools and clothing adapted for survival, artworks reflecting the respectful relationship between Arctic people and the natural world, to stunning photography of contemporary daily life, the exhibition will show the great diversity of cultures and ingenuity of communities responding to dramatic changes in seasonal weather and human-caused climate change," the museum said in a statement.
Highlights include an eight-piece Igloolik winter costume made of caribou fur; walrus ivory needles which are about 28,000-years-old and a sledge made of bone, ivory and driftwood tied together by sealskin. The sledge occupies a significant role in Arctic history, it was traded by members of an indigenous tribe with British explorer Sir John Ross during his 1818 expedition - the first contact between the native people and Europeans.
There is also contemporary photography of the region and communities, new artwork and a new installation from the art collective Embassy of Imagination, which will present traditional clothing made from Japanese paper and printmaking by Inuit youth in Kinngait (Cape Dorset) and Puvirnitug, Nunavut, Canada.
Launching a climate change-focused exhibition has seen the British Museum come under renewed pressure on Twitter over its partnership with BP, named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. BP is currently sponsoring the museum's Troy exhibition, while Citibank will support the Arctic exhibition. Citi is one of the 17 banks that financed the Dakota Access Pipeline in the US.
Arctic: culture and climate opens on 28 May, 2020. Tickets are priced at £16 (€19) for adults; £14 (€16.50) for students and free for under-16s. For more information, see here.