The concept

Remembering Extinction is a research program exploring how narratives of species extinction and recovery from near extinction are constructed, perpetuated, and put into practice.

We may be living through one of the most significant changes to the Earth’s environment in the ‘sixth mass extinction event’. Greater input is urgently needed from arts and humanities to work alongside, as well as to critically engage with, the scientific discoveries and ethical imperatives of contemporary wildlife conservation studies. Because museums, art galleries, and other public spaces are primary sites of public engagement with conservation issues including extinction, critical reflection on how they can be used to cultivate heritage thinking about nonhuman species is timely in light of the increasing number of species lost to extinction each year.

In this program, we are investigating display practices for cultural stories of both extinction and the recovery of species which had been on the brink of extinction with an interdisciplinary collaborative approach. We will explore the multiple emotional framings active simultaneously in displays, practices, and enactments, including loss, guilt, belonging, care, mourning, and celebration, using interactive workshops, art-as-research practice, and narrative analysis. We strive to develop best practices for how the cultural significance of extinction events, whether they happened or were averted, can be displayed for the public and implement best practices in pilot exhibit spaces as a testing ground for the research.