John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe

This exhibition was scheduled to be installed in John Muir’s Birthplace and opened on 1st April. However, due to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the impact this has had on the preparation and production of the physical exhibition, it is not yet known when the exhibition will be opened in the Birthplace.

Since the public preview of the outline and plans of the exhibition in late-February – see the Preview of John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe – some of the content and themes outlined then have been amended to include references to the current crisis. What follows is a summary of this revamped exhibition and subsequent pages will outline the main themes of the exhibition along with some examples of the text and images that will be included in the final version.

The exhibition focuses on John Muir’s legacy and his role as an environmental activist and successful campaigner and his relevance for our situation today in addressing the climate crisis. However, we have paused to reflect on the content of the exhibition in the light of the current COVID-19 crisis. There are certain parallels between what are both global existential crises. Perhaps the pandemic may help us to understand the ties that bind us on a global scale, the fragility of our economic systems and how vulnerable they leave so many people and the inadequacy of our response to the even greater threat of climate crisis? Even though climate change presents a slower, more long-term health threat, an equally dramatic and much more sustained shift in ways of life and economic, political and social structures will be needed to prevent irreversible damage.

It has been interesting to see how relevant many of the themes being explored in the exhibition are also relevant to COVID-19, for example, the greater impact of both crises on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. However, both also present an opportunity to reflect on what is actually important for our wellbeing and the sort of future we want to create. John Muir had a lot to say on our need for nature as an essential element for our mental health and spiritual nourishment.

The exhibition was always intended to be a catalyst to a series of events and activities over the summer, in conjunction with other groups. How we do this will now have to change and we are exploring other ways to engage with and highlight the incredible range of existing community-led activity in our area.

We want to ask – ‘What if?’ questions to spark people’s imaginations for a positive vision for the Dunbar and East Linton ward in the context of the climate emergency.

The content and images for 7 ‘panels’ is now with our designer, Emma Westwater of Source Design who is transforming it all into inspiring visuals for the actual Birthplace exhibition and which will be uploaded to the Birthplace website as soon as possible. We are extremely grateful to Emma for her advice and direction over the past few months and for her continued patience in what is a really challenging topic.

Emma is also busy making protective visors for NHS and other key workers from the Makery in Dunbar, which she runs with her partner, Murray Calder.

The exhibition starts with an introduction to why John Muir is very relevant to the current climate crisis. We can share this first panel as it has been progressed so far –

Next: First panel…