Nature / Culture Systems: Partners in a Future with a Changing Climate


Every aspect of our lives affects and is affected by climate change – personal and professional; dreamt of and experienced. As systems, both climate and society are sensitive to the changes humans put in motion. The cultural sector is making important strides in recognizing the need to respond to climate change. This session illustrates how, at every scale, cultural heritage professionals and institutions are addressing systems that cause climate change that affect both the natural and cultural worlds. After a brief overview of the sector’s recent successes, Sarah will describe the new approaches and opportunities she sees as the sector accelerates its work in reducing its impact on the climate and developing resilience approaches for the future.

Climate Change, Collecting, and Future Research


As we increasingly confront the environmental consequences of climate change, it is vitally important that natural science museums continue to collect and preserve specimens and objects to document its effects. Because scientific specimens are a record of the occurrence of a species at a particular time and place and contain clues to what their environment was like, natural science collections allow us to analyze past environmental patterns and predict future changes, but our ability to use collections in this way depends on having specimens collected over a long timespan. Continued collecting should be conducted in accordance with standards for equitable biological fieldwork. Although it is important to continue preparing specimens in traditional ways (e.g., dry specimens, skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens), it is equally important to develop new preservation techniques to meet the needs of future research (such as molecular systematics, isotope studies, microbiome research). To accommodate this increase in collection size, institutions should use the principles of preventive conservation to design more efficient collection storage arrays and facilities with stable, passive environments.

Climate Smart Humanities Organizations: A New Opportunity from National Endowment for the Humanities


The Climate Smart Humanities Organizations program strengthens the institutional base of the humanities by supporting strategic planning for climate change. This type of comprehensive planning increases organizational resilience and involves two primary assessment types: mitigation, which looks for ways to reduce an institution’s impact on the environment, and adaptation, which looks for ways to protect an organization from climate impacts. Together, mitigation and adaptation form the basis of the resulting strategic plan and help humanities organizations increase resilience and sustainability in the long term—they become climate smart.

The Climate Smart program supports these efforts by offering federal matching funds for the completion of comprehensive assessments that lead to strategic climate action and adaptation plans. Strategic planning considers operational, physical, and financial impacts of climate-related events on institutions, while also seeking to reduce overall environmental impact. Projects should propose to undertake a range of assessment activities such as comprehensive energy audits, climate risk assessments, and/or carbon footprint calculation. These efforts should include institutional staff at all levels and may also rely upon outside consultants, experts, and community partners.

The result of the grant will be a climate smart strategic plan that establishes goals and prioritized actions to reduce the organization’s impacts on the environment and/or vulnerability from extreme events, while supporting work in the humanities over the long term.

Eligible organizations can apply on behalf of their own institution or lead a community-based consortium of collaborating cultural organizations. All applicants must raise third-party, nonfederal funds in an equal amount to what is requested from NEH.

Award levels and matching requirements:

  • Up to $300,000 in NEH funds
  • All projects require a 1:1 match (max. total award $600,000)

Deadline: January 17, 2023