Humans have become a significant force influencing global geological and biophysical change. Traces of our activities will be visible in the geological record millions of years into the future. Some scientists say the Earth has entered a new epoch,

The Anthropocene or 'Age of Humans'

In this project, we are exploring the role museums can play in helping to make sense of Australia’s experiences during a time of rapid planetary change and global disruption.

Through an online exhibition, a physical exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, as well as forums, symposiums, art installations and other public events, we aim to create welcoming spaces for discussion, sharing ideas, and expressing emotions about the nature of the Anthropocene in Australia.

The aim of the project is to contribute to positive and hopeful cultural transformation by offering a place to ask – and answer – the questions:

  • What is Australia in the age of humans like?
  • How can we describe the Anthropocene in Australia?
  • How do we feel about it and why?
  • What significances do we see in the ways Australia is changing, and what emotions are we feeling about them?
  • What are we doing about it? In particular, what are we doing collectively to respond to the challenges of the Anthropocene with new ways of living in the world?

Global phenomena such as climate change, ocean acidification, soil erosion, deforestation, species loss, and chemical pollution can be too vast to comprehend. Often we speak about these changes and disruptive forces as problems in abstract or technical terms. We use ‘things’ – objects, performances, stories, images, art – to help bring such diffuse phenomena into vivid focus. We explore and dramatise the local dimensions of the planetary-scale idea of the Anthropocene. We do this by:

  • Assembling objects in relationship with other living and inanimate beings, forces, systems and structures, as a means to dramatise and investigate the nature of the Australian Anthropocene
  • Building a culture of storytelling through objects, images, places and other material forms, with a view to developing cultural capacity to ‘make sense’ of Anthropocenic changes
  • Generating and supporting an engaged community of interest, who will contribute, comment and participate in the creation and development of the project.

This project is funded by an ARC Discovery Grant, Understanding Australia in the Age of Humans: Localising the Anthropocene, which brings together researchers, curators and artists from the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University and the National Museum of Australia.