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Exploring Climate Change and Community Engagement in the Museum

Research Thesis by Danielle Sakowski

With the unique tools and points of connection that define museums, they have a role to play in engaging their local communities on the topic of climate change. Washington State is now experiencing a variety of climate change-related effects including increased extreme heat events, droughts, wildfire, ocean acidification and more—these impacts will gain momentum as time and current human behaviors continue. The purpose of this study was to explore the dimensions of community engagement on topics related to climate change in small and mid-sized museums in Washington State. This study’s aim was to characterize 1) the ways that practitioners in the State engage their community on this topic, 2) the barriers and opportunities presented, and 3) the potential impact of this engagement on the local community. Utilizing a case study design, data were collected through interviews with six museum professionals and institutional document analysis. The results of this study suggest that small and mid-sized museums in Washington State engage their communities on the topic of climate change using a diversity of strategies, consider local relevance in their messaging, and leverage their work in this vein through partnerships. The engagement strategies described in this study may serve as a model for institutions interested in this work.


Sakowski, D. N. (2020). Exploring climate change and community engagement in the museum (Order No. 28001166). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ University of Washington WCLP; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2439587003). Retrieved from

Key words

Climate education; Community engagement; Global warming