Introducing Wild!

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Manchester Museum’s new Exhibition Hall will be opening next year, but how do we use this huge space to build understanding between cultures and a sustainable world? And how do we do this in a way that is relevant, inspiring and interesting for our visitors? This guest post from Manchester Museum’s Wild Team (see below!) offers an answer to these questions as they introduce an exciting new exhibition that is starting to take shape.

Wild, a new exhibition due to open in autumn 2023, will explore what wild means to different people, different ways that people are making places wild, and raise questions about what wild might mean or become in the future. We hope that this exhibition will reconnect people with their surroundings and help them to think differently about the multitude of animals and plants amongst which they live their lives.

For more than a year, a team of five (we like to refer to ourselves as The Wild Team!) has been working on this exhibition. So far, we’ve been developing and refining ideas for the scope and content and have now identified three main themes that will be explored through the exhibition:

What is Wild? Wild means different things to different people and is influenced by books and art as much as the world around us. In this section we will ask: what does wild mean to you? The very concept of wild is rooted in a western worldview and we aim to share different perspectives that will bring a richness to our understanding of wild.

One locust with its wings closed, one with its wings open
Desert locust

Wild Now will explore different examples of how people are making places wild both locally and globally to reveal the different ways that wildness is shaping landscapes around us. From Yellowstone, to the Knepp Estate and urban Manchester projects, visitors will experience the wide range of different ways wild is being done today. Throughout this section we will encourage visitors to consider who is making the decisions (and whose opinions are excluded), who holds the power, how wild is being valued and how this compares to their own understanding of wild.

European otter
European Otter

Wild Futures will build on Wild Now by supporting visitors to explore and speculate on different lines of thought and action into the future, based on different values and meanings of wild. We will ask visitors: How far are you willing to go? What would you do? We will move from speculation to actions by sharing inspiring stories, connections to groups and organisations, sources of advice and guidance, we hope to support individual / collective intentions and actions.

Red fox

So far, much of this groundwork has been developed internally and largely shaped through discussions and research carried out by the Wild team. We are now moving into an exciting new phase where we are starting to reach out beyond the museum as we start to flesh out the bare bones of the concept. Earlier this year, we started this process by bringing together colleagues from across the University of Manchester to find out how their work can help to shape the exhibition and where opportunities exist for collaborations around programming and activities that will enhance the exhibition. After an initial zoom session earlier in the year, this week we were able to host a workshop at the museum. 15 colleagues came along for a sneak peek at the new Exhibition Hall, followed by a chance to discuss ideas and opportunities to collaborate around different programmes; there was a real buzz in the room and a great deal of lively conversation.

Great crested grebe
Great Crested Grebe

We want to bring the most interesting and challenging approaches to the exhibition and will be reaching out beyond the university, to start the conversation with a broad range of individuals and groups; both local to the museum and internationally, so if you would like to get in touch, please get in touch via email – wild@manchester.ac.uk – and we look forward to hearing from you!

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