Native Universe: Indigenous Voice in Museums, a collaboration between the Indigenous Education Institute, University of California-Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, builds on the successful NSF-funded Cosmic Serpent collaborative (DRL 07-14631/DRL 07-14629). The Cosmic Serpent professional development project explores commonalities between native and western science, enabling participants to use STEM as an entry point for museum programs and exhibits. Native Universe endeavors to move to the next level by creating a professional development program which fosters systemic institutional change through the infusion of indigenous voice in programs and exhibits focusing on environmental change. Topics to be explored include species distribution, environmental vulnerability, adaptation of human systems, and science and policy issues on the local, regional, and global levels. This project is designed to assess how cultural background and exposure to indigenous knowledge systems integrated with western science influence these perspectives; develop sustainable institutional competence in presenting multiple perspectives on environmental change; and create models for inclusion while building an enduring community of practice.
The project design relies upon a conceptual framework grounded in the literature on indigenous voice and traditional ecological knowledge, as well as current models for institutional change. Front-end, summative, and process evaluation will address questions related to how science museums facilitate engagement and inclusion of indigenous voice in the presentation of environmental change content, stages of readiness, and the emergence of models for this process. Methods for data collection include reflective logs, pre-post questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews at multiple points to measure the degree and nature of change within museums, as well as how change was initiated, supported, and sustained by staff.
Project deliverables include three museum case studies developed during 9-month residencies, public experiences for visitors, a culminating virtual conference, and a dynamic community of practice among museums committed to indigenous voice in informal science education. The museum residencies will take place at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the Museum of the North in Alaska. Intensive case studies will be conducted at each site following the DinÃ© Strategic Planning Process (consisting of initiation, growth, implementation, and renewal) and featuring the ÃŒmiloa Astronomy Institute as a model for institutional change. Exhibits and programs have been identified at each site that will be developed or expanded to integrate environmental change content and native perspectives. Dissemination of the project findings will be accomplished through publications, conference presentations, videos, webinars (four per year), and the virtual conference.
It is anticipated that this project will impact over 1.2 million visitors at the collaborating institutions, in addition to the professional audience of museum staff. Native Universe may provide valuable interpretive tools for the field to understand and address the challenges associated with integrating cultural perspectives and science content. The museum case studies will contribute knowledge about the cultural process of science learning, and may transform the way science is presented in museums by leveraging indigenous voice to enhance public awareness and understanding of environmental change from a culturally-grounded perspective. The overall benefit is increased participation of indigenous individuals in STEM and increased public science literacy in the area of environmental change.