Art, history and the SDGs

Photo: Whitaker Museum by Charlie Woods

It’s not every day you walk into a museum or gallery and see the Sustainable Development Goals graphic on the wall. This is what met me when I visited the Whitaker Museum and Gallery in Lancashire recently. They have ‘undertaken a re-development of interpretation with a focus on the SDGs, connecting people, heritage and ideas with the past, the present and the future.’ The aim is to explore the relationship between people, planet and prosperity in the context of a particular place – in this case Rossendale, the location of a number of former mill towns alongside the River Irwell. 

The strap-line on their website is: Explore the past, meet the present, create the future. They see the museum and gallery as being as much about the future as it is about the past. By building on an exploration of the past and the present, the aim is to make it a place for people to take part in the development of the community – where they can share their hopes and visions of a better future, and to work together to create the community they want to live in.

The framework offered by the SDGs offers a way for communities to consider the seemingly disparate goals in a more coherent way. They help us try to make sense of the interrelationships between the goals and possible trade-offs and potential synergies between them. They also help us to consider the relationship between short-term emergencies and longer-term objectives to achieve a balance between the urgent and the important. 

Community engagement to help understand and achieve the SDGs is at the heart of many of the projects that make up SUII’s recent SDG Programme. The programme comprises eleven projects, covering a wide range of areas including: climate change, place-making, land and sea management, social justice, health, education and food.

Community action and learning to develop sustainable places is one of the breakout themes that we will be exploring further at our conference to conclude the programme on 25 November. Other breakout sessions will cover:

  • Improving outcomes through collaboration – bottom-up engagement and top-down governance
  • Health and wellbeing in an ageing society
  • Justice in its widest sense
  • Educating now and for the future

The conference will provide the opportunity for policy makers, practitioners and the wider public to:

  • learn about the policy and practice insights from the projects;
  • consider the interrelationship between projects and some of the cross-cutting themes and insights to emerge from the programme;
  • explore the ways in which the insights generated by the knowledge exchanged in the programme can influence action to tackle the Covid recovery and achieve fairer, more sustainable outcomes;
  • share ideas with academic researchers to take the insights from the programme forward.

More details of the conference can be found here.

Charlie Woods, October 2021

Author: scotinsight

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute supports programmes of knowledge exchange which address and provide insight on substantial issues that face Scotland and the wider world. Our programmes break down disciplinary and organisational barriers in bringing together academics from different backgrounds, policymakers and practitioners to mobilise existing knowledge in fresh ways through sustained and collaborative focus on a shared issue. Our member universities are: Aberdeen, Dundee, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art.

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