A fire engine bell from National Museums Scotland’s collection has been adapted to toll at random intervals 150-200 times per day in response to the climate emergency.
Each ring of the Extinction Bell marks the extinction of a species, representing the number of species being lost every 24 hours, according to a 2007 report from the UN.
The 19th century brass bell, chosen by curators, was originally used on a horse-drawn fire engine from St Mary’s Isle estate near Kirkcudbright.
It’s the work of Bristol-based artist Luke Jerram, who said: “It’s appropriate that the bell the curators chose comes from an old fire engine, as this is an emergency.
“I’m pleased that the National Museum of Scotland will be showing this piece, and I hope it will give visitors pause for reflection and indeed action as the world’s leaders gather in Scotland for COP26.”
Meanwhile, another display that’s also opened at the museum explores the impact of climate change and the technological response in Scotland to the climate emergency.
Scotland’s Climate Challenge examines Scottish innovations which seek to mitigate the impact of industry on our climate through the use of alternative sources of energy by showing a range of leading-edge equipment, much of it newly collected, alongside samples of natural material.
It also profiles some of those working in associated industries, such as Dr Faisal Ghani, whose pioneering invention, the SolarisKit has won awards for its contribution to lowering carbon emissions and addressing fuel poverty in the developing world.
Ellie Swinbank, Technology Curator at National Museums Scotland, said: “Scotland’s Climate Challenge highlights the exciting work being carried out in this country to fight against climate change.
“It brings together just some of the technological responses that have been developed in Scotland or that are being used here in the effort to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
“We also look at the efforts made to ensure these new technologies are themselves sustainable, both in terms of their impact on the environment and ecosystems and the resources consumed in their manufacture.”
Both Scotland’s Climate Challenge and the Extinction Bell are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said: “I’m pleased that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting Scotland’s Climate Challenge and the Extinction Bell, which together highlight the scale of the challenge the world is facing, and the urgency with which it must be addressed.”
National Museums Scotland has also been working with pupils at Castlebrae Community High School in Edinburgh to develop three short films, supported by the Scottish Power Foundation, which show how the museum’s collections can help us understand the science of climate change, the evidence for human impact and the things that can be done to address the situation.
The films can be viewed at nms.ac.uk/climatefilms
Dr Christopher Breward, Director of National Museums Scotland said: “The global environmental emergency – not only the climate crisis but also large-scale biodiversity loss – is the biggest challenge facing the world.
“National Museums Scotland has an important role to play in using our collections, our museums, and our knowledge and expertise to create spaces for people to debate, learn and share ideas and work towards a better future.
“Scotland’s Climate Challenge and the Extinction Bell are two elements of a much wider programme across National Museums Scotland, which includes further programming in terms of events and activities but also our own operations.
“In the last nine years we have reduced our energy-related carbon emissions by 72%, but there is still more we can and must do.”
*Scotland’s Climate Challenge runs from Friday September 24 – Sunday March 27, 2022.
Extinction Bell runs until Sunday January 9, 2022, both at the National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh. Admission is free.