REVIEW: Arctic: Culture and Climate, British Museum (Online Curator’s Tour)

The British Museum delves in to the history of the cultures of the Indigenous people who continue to live in the Arctic – but also their future in the light of climate change.

a seal-gut parka is prepared for display at the British Museum / The Trustees of the British Museum.

It is incredible to think that there are people who have managed to survive the extreme conditions of living in the Arctic – but as this fascinating curator led tour of the British Museum’s exhibition shows they have managed to embrace the weather rather than fight it.

But sadly, given the growing impact of climate change the lives who form part of the more than 40 indigenous groups living in the area is under threat as the ice melts at a shocking rate. This is something that is really emphasised during this tour – particularly when contrasted with how they use their environment and weather to adapt, survive and live. In particular, hearing some of these extraordinary people talking about where you live makes it a real wake up call. When one explains how years ago the ocean would be frozen solid by October – only in Octobers in more recent years it feels more like Summer it is a real shock.

In order to get the tone of the exhibition just right, curators Amber Lincoln and Jago Cooper have collaborated this exhibition alongside some of the Arctic communities. Filled with a variety of exciting objects, it is an exhibition that feels like a real celebration of these communities that focuses on the future as much as it does on the past . It is a real contrast to many of the other exhibitions that the British Museum have put on in the past.

But it is the way in which they use every part of their surroundings that make them come across as true survivors – with objects such as bags made out of fish and and a parka made out of seal gut highlighting this. While we in the UK don’t need to rely on animals quite so much for survival those living in the arctic have a very different way of living that respects the environment in a different way.

This online tour may only be 13 minutes in length but in that time you still get a strong awareness of what this exhibition sets out to achieve – and it does it well. It makes you really sit up and pay attention to the plight of the environment as well as the communities and cultures who might disappear if we don’t take climate change more seriously. When the doors reopen again I will be certainly paying a visit to see this thoughtful exhibition.

By Emma Clarendon

Arctic: Culture and Climate the Curator’s tour is available to view here. The exhibition is set to be on display at the British Museum until the 21st February.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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