Cliffe Castle Museum: The Human Effect – A Different Approach to Climate Change

The Human Effect’ is a new display at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley, West Yorkshire, using natural history and art collections to take an empowering approach to climate change.

Cliffe Castle is one of the four sites run by Bradford District Museums and Galleries. Previously home to a family of wealthy textile industrialists, the museum today houses temporary display and permanent galleries ranging from social history to art to natural sciences, the latter of which are located in the old ballroom. In among the Victorian taxidermy dioramas, the new display uses the taxidermy collection alongside specially commissioned illustrations and a newly acquired artwork to highlight how human activity has impacted the environment, what climate change means for certain local animals, and what we can all do to help.

Curator of Collections Lowri Jones commented that:

‘One of Bradford District Museums & Galleries priorities it to support climate emergency awareness, and we have a fantastic natural sciences collection, much of which was collected from the local area – we were looking for a way to marry the two in this display. Climate change can be scary and off-putting, so we wanted to make sure the new case looked friendly and that it had a positive, action-based message rather than being all doom and gloom – but while also not dodgy the seriousness of the issue.

The inclusion of artworks alongside the natural sciences collection has helped with this – we have the beauty and tragedy of nature and the climate crisis complemented with the beauty and charm of the artworks. The illustrations by Nat Hues were created specifically to have a broad age appeal, which is really important as we know that families form a big part of our audience at Cliffe Castle. The interpretation is aimed a family audience, for example using the label for the artwork (‘Casket’, a selection of glass pieces in the shape of items from nature by Effie Burns) to create an I-spy game to encourage younger children to spot and identify different items from nature.

We’ve also focussed on including actions people can take to help combat climate change alongside facts about the environmental impacts on local animals. The intention is that people will come away feeling that little bit more positive about the small changes they can make.’

Find out more about the museum on its website

Image 1 – The new display in the natural sciences gallery at Cliffe Castle Museum.

Image 2 – Illustrations commissioned for the display sit next to specimens from Bradford District Museums and Galleries collection.

Image 3 – The hedgehog is one of the illustrations by Nat Hues.