Did you know that climate change denier David H. Koch is a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History and an advisory board member of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History? “So, what’s in it for him apart from unlimited free entry?” I hear you ask. Well, allegations abound that Mr Koch is exerting influence on programming at the public institutions, causing omissions or misrepresentations of climate science and global warming in exhibitions. In response, Brooklyn-based arts collective Not An Alternative has established The Natural History Museum to make “a point to include and highlight the social and political forces that shape nature, yet are left out of traditional natural history museums.” Their first exhibition will run from September 13 to October 4, 2014, at the Queens Museum.
The new Natural History Museum will offer exhibitions, expeditions, educational workshops and public programming. The project was inspired when members of Not An Alternative learned that David Koch sits on the boards of the country’s most prominent natural history museums. Koch Industries, as we know, is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and the Koch brothers fund a large network of organizations that misrepresent climate science. A 2010 Koch-funded exhibition at the Smithsonian came under fire by scientists for a misleading exhibit on evolution and climate change. David Koch also donated $35 million to fund the Smithsonian’s new dinosaur hall, without a hint of irony.
Not An Alternative’s Beka Economopoulos says, “In the long term, this project aims to model the museum of the future. It’s not a joke or a punchline. It will speak earnestly to the ideals and values of natural history museums. Wouldn’t it be great if the institutions that provide us with our basic perspective on nature weren’t hamstrung by the threat of self-censorship that comes from accepting corporate cash? And what if they actively championed a version of nature capable of sustaining life for generations to come?”
The Natural History Museum will exhibit at the Queens Museum from September 13 to October 4, 2014. A series of panels, workshops, and performances with artists, activists, scientists, anthropologists, historians, and theorists will introduce the public to the historical and theoretical framework that informs The Natural History Museum’s programs. Presenters include authors Christian Parenti and Astra Taylor, artists Hans Haacke, Mark Dion and Liberate Tate, scientist Michael Mann, historian Stuart Ewen, media/political theorist Jodi Dean, activists Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre, and others. The museum’s launch is timed to coincide with the People’s Climate March in NYC on September 21, 2014, anticipated to be the largest climate march in history. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will host a special summit on the climate crisis with world leaders that week in New York City.