When the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) started developing its new permanent natural sciences exhibition they knew they needed to address climate change in a way that would inspire visitors to take action. From their research Te Papa knew that climate change is the issue their audience cares about the most, but one that also leaves audience members feeling overwhelmed, scared, and powerless to make change.
Based on this user research Te Papa defined clear and specific aims for the Climate Converter experience. The core goal was to create an experience that left visitors feeling motivated to take action together to create a carbon-zero future. The installation could take up a maximum floor space of 5 metres by 8 metres, and needed to function without host/docent guidance.
DOTDOT conceptualised and designed an immersive installation where visitors learn ways we can take action to lessen the harmful effects of climate change, and choose to make a personal pledge to change behaviour beyond the walls of the museum. The design team worked closely with Te Papa’s exhibition team and climate scientists to ensure the content was scientifically accurate and would engage Te Papa’s target audiences.
The Climate Converter is an immersive space, with four walls and floor all projection-mapped in a mesmerizing ‘New Zealand-esque’ environment in the delicate style of paper – from city skyline to forest floor all cycling through extreme weather events made increasingly familiar by the growing impact of climate change. The whole space is responsive to movement and the elements move, fold and unfold like origami. When visitors walk into the space, native ferns on the floor bend and make way for them. If they pause and stand still, a curious origami kiwi comes to peck around their ankles.
There are two key ways for users to create impact within the space:
- Visitors can interact with features on the walls by raising a hand and touching an object to trigger eco-friendly actions that we should champion at a societal level. For example, adding electric charging stations to a city to encourage uptake of electric vehicles. If visitors collectively make enough positive change a ‘Success!’ message appears – they’ve achieved a carbon neutral New Zealand. If not, they’ll begin to see representations of how weather patterns will affect the environment, such as storms or drought.
- Visitors can interact with plinth-based touch screens to learn what they can do as an individual and make a personal pledge – one simple real-world action to fight climate change. Visitors watch as their pledge transforms into a native bird – the kererū – which flies into the environment, joining the other visitor pledges. Visitors can also choose to receive additional information by email to help them fulfill their pledge and take action outside the walls of the museum.
Climate Converter launched in May 2019. The exhibition is expected to last 10 years and the Te Taiao zone has already had more than 450,000 visitors.