Far off wonders are closer than you think with a new exhibit at the Museum of Science exploring the way climate change is changing World Heritage sites.
As part of the new "Changing Landscapes: An Immersive Journey" exhibition, you can now travel to the pyramids of Giza, to Venice’s lagoon, to the enormous stone figures known at Rapa Nui on Easter Island and the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, all without leaving Boston.
Visitors can visualize at their own pace the way these four different sites, all designated by UNESCO as cultural or natural treasures, are being affected by the changing climate. Through virtual imaging and interactive experiences showing how these sites are addressing the challenges, the exhibition hopes to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change.
David Sittenfeld, director of the museum's Center for the Environment, said the exhibit not only shows the climate hazards these different sites face, but also presents the strategies of adaptation and resilience that are being employed.
“We want people to understand that these places are at risk and that smart people are thinking about how to keep them resilient,” he said.
At an event celebrating the opening of the exhibition on Jan. 19, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the installation shows that changes are needed not just globally, but locally too.
“As a coastal city, we will set the template for how cities around the world will be able to adapt and lean into the changes that are needed,” Wu said. “We're doing everything we can to curb emissions here in Boston. We are also working together, reaching out to be at the forefront of research, collaboration and conversations with innovators in cities around the nation.”
Wu also noted that the exhibit shows how climate change cuts across cultural and national borders. "The endless beauty behind the urgency of this work is a reminder of what we are protecting and why,” she said.
Yves Ubelmann is president and founder of Iconem, a Paris-based company that created the photogrammetry 3D scans of the historical sights that are used in the exhibition.
“The most important thing is people feel the beauty of this landscape, the beauty of this architecture,” Ubelmann said. “We really need to find altogether the best solution to keep these sites for the future generations.”
Wu encouraged Boston Public School students to take advantage of a new museum program, starting in February, that offers free general admission to them and their families on the first and second Sundays of each month.
While “Changing Landscapes” takes viewers across the world, it ends with a piece about work being done in the Boston area to deal with resilience issues.
Sittenfeld said this message continues the museum's programming as part of its Year of the Earthshot climate initiative. Throughout the year, the museum will offer more exhibitions, hands-on curriculum about sustainable innovation happening locally, a green career fair and more.
“We see this as a year for optimism,” Sittenfeld said. “The 'Changing Landscapes' exhibit is serious but focuses both on the impacts on these places that we love and treasure, maybe that we’ll never go to, but also includes opportunities to hear, for example, about what people in Chelsea and Everett are doing to reduce their heat vulnerabilities, to make their communities greener and on what people in different places are doing to become more resilient.”
"Changing Landscapes" is included in the museum's general admission and is open through May 5, 2024.