Native Universe: Indigenous Voice in Science Museums was a full-Scale Development Project designed to build
institutional capacity in leadership and practice among science museums in order to increase public understanding of environmental change and the human
relationship to nature from indigenous perspectives, while also providing access to science as practiced in the established scientific community. The
project addressed a concern of the National Research Council (2009) that although Informal Science Education (ISE) institutions, such as science
centers, libraries, and other places of learning outside the classroom, are making efforts to serve indigenous communities,
these efforts typically fall short of the kind of deep systemic change necessary to fully infuse indigenous voice throughout ISE experiences.
Through a series of intensive long-term residencies at three Case Study Museums,
project investigators worked with museum staff and volunteers, indigenous
communities, and informal learning researchers to understand how cultural
perspectives impact science learning about environmental change. The project
documented the extent to which it is possible to transform institutional
culture and museum learning opportunities to incorporate indigenous voice in a
deep and sustained way. The project not only provided enriched visitor
experiences, but in some ways ensured that these experiences are lasting and will grow
with the institutions providing them.
to deepen our knowledge of how science museums can engage visitors in discourse
around environmental change through cross-cultural perspectives addressed
overarching questions of interest to the ISE field:
- What are the components across and
within science museums that facilitate engagement and inclusion of the
indigenous voice of their community with respect to environmental change?
- What is the process by which a museum moves through stages of
readiness to change related to inclusion of minority voice in environmental issues?
- Across the Case Studies, does a model or models emerge that could inform how inclusion
of indigenous voice moves across and within a science museum?
What we learned from this research can enrich and sustain efforts to engage both the public
and indigenous communities in culturally-based science beyond the impact of individual projects at each museum.
- Indigenous Education Institute (IEI)—a nonprofit directed by Native leaders dedicated to the
preservation and contemporary application of indigenous knowledge to science;
- `Imiloa Astronomy Center, University of Hawai`i, Hilo (`Imiloa)—a pioneer in
addressing cultural relevance to science at the institutional level; and
- Multiverse at the Space Sciences Laboratory,
U.C. Berkeley (UCB)—a leadership group of interdisciplinary scientists and
educators invested in Native perspectives.
- Museum Case Studies at the
Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and
Durango Powerhouse Science Center featuring a one-week intensive experience at `Imiloa,
9-month residencies by the project team at each
of the three museums, and video documentation;
- Public Experiences for museum visitors; and
- Native Universe Community of Practice among museums committed to indigenous
voice in informal science education.
Native Universe reached a primary audience of over 500 museum
staff and volunteers at all levels at the Case Study Museums, and an
additional 100 museum personnel in the Community of Practice. Based on visitors
attending these three museums per year, we estimate that our project has reached
a secondary audience of over a million visitors at the participating museums since the project started in 2012.
These visitors include American Indian, Alaska
Natives and Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders. The COSI team and Native Pathways collaborated
on the evaluation of the impacts on participants in the residencies at each
museum, and assessed the degree to which the resulting public experiences
increased public understanding of environmental change from a variety of
indigenous and Western science perspectives. Please visit our Impacts Page to learn more about the impacts of this project.
value of the project to the ISE field lied in a potential model for
transformative change to enhance science learning about the environment through
indigenous voice within each institution and across several
institutions. The Native Universe
model stems from a synthesis of research results, the residency exchanges,
public experiences, and community of practice, providing a theoretical
framework and practical methodology for science museums to deeply engage
indigenous populations and the general public in environmental change through acultural lens.
Goals for the Full-ScaleDevelopment Project Native Universe:Indigenous Voice in Science Museums reflect the Diné (Navajo) StrategicPlanning Process (Maryboy & Begay 2003).
- East – Nitsahakees – a place of initiation: Assess how cultural background and experienceinfluence one’s perceptions of environmental change and the human relationshipto nature.
- South – Nahat’a – a place of organization and growth: Explore how exposure to indigenous knowledge systemsjuxtaposed with mainstream science influences these perspectives.
- West – Iina – a place of activation andimplementation: Develop in sciencemuseums institutional, systematic, and sustainable competence in bringing bothindigenous perspectives of environmental change and Western science knowledgeto the public.
- North –Siihasin – a place of evaluation, renewal, and transformation: Build a sustainable community of practice among museums centered on deepinstitutional commitment to framing indigenous perspectives within the contextof significant changes going on in our environment.
- National Research Council (NRC). 2009. Learning Science in Informal
Environments: People, Places and Pursuits. Washington, DC: National
Academies Press. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12190
- Maryboy, N. C. and D. Begay. 2003. A Cosmic Planning Model for the World Hope Foundation. Indigenous Education Institute.