Extinction and Cultural Heritage

Thinking Through Extinction explores how the current global mass extinction event is communicated by and encountered in public spaces. Based at the University of Leeds, and in partnership with Corridor8 and Manchester Museum, the project aims to make sense of what extinction means to different publics, and to facilitate new ways of thinking through extinction.

From fossil displays to taxidermy, there is a long history of representation of individual species extinctions in museums. Increasingly there has been an effort to ‘educate’ the public on the link between biodiversity loss and the threat to human civilization. But it is far from clear how the concept of a global extinction crisis, including possible ecological, economic and civilizational collapse, can and ought to be displayed, narrated, and a public response sought. So, the underlying question of this project is: how does knowledge of the Sixth Mass Extinction Event feed into the personal and collective imaginations of the future, and how does that imagination find expression?

Through public engagement, artist commissioning, and intellectual inquiry, this project investigates what people think, imagine, and believe about the broad concept of “extinction”, and explores how museums and galleries are shaping such engagement.

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