Last Thursday, the Chrysler Museum of Art, Old Dominion University, and the HRPDC hosted a discussion on the role cultural institutions can play in regional conversations and decision-making about sea level rise and flooding. This event was the eleventh meeting of the Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum, a Virginia Sea Grant-funded project that brings together local government staff, researchers, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders to learn about research findings and best practices related to sea level rise and flooding. The event at the Chrysler Museum was timed to coincide with the museum’s monthly Third Thursday social event and the recent opening of two exhibits: “Water,” a photography exhibit by Edward Burtynsky, and “Cities: Departure and Deviation,” a blown-glass collection by Norwood Viviano. Mr. Viviano gave talks at the forum and during the Third Thursday event.
The forum featured three presentations from local and national speakers. Chrysler Museum Director Erik Neill discussed the broader issue of whether or not museums should talk about contemporary political or social issues. Chrysanthe Broikos, Curator for the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., presented on the “Designing for Disaster” exhibit that was held at the National Building Museum from May 2014 to September 2015. Her talk focused on the role that museums can play in educating the public about risks from natural hazards and potential solutions for becoming more resilient. George McLeod, Assistant Director for Geospatial and Visualization Systems at ODU, gave the attendees an overview of how LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data is used to measure elevation and analyze vulnerability to flooding. Norwood Viviano followed his talk by explaining how he uses large datasets and computer modeling to design his sculptures.
The highlight of the afternoon was a panel discussion, led by Jenifer Alonzo of Old Dominion University, with representatives from area cultural institutions: Elliot Gruber (president and CEO, The Mariners Museum in Newport News), Michael Desplaines (President and CEO, the Norfolk Botanical Garden), Chris Witherspoon (Director of Education, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center), and Dorothy Geyer (National Resources Specialist, Colonial National Historical Park). These representatives discussed how their institutions were incorporating sea level rise and flooding into their exhibits and programs and offered some thoughts on opportunities for collaborations between different organizations in the future. The audience was also invited to participate through small group conversations.
Overall, the event was very well attended and demonstrated how government agencies can partner with non-governmental organizations and institutions to engage the public on a wide range of issues.
Photos courtesy, Virginia Sea Grant (Top 4 photos) and Chrysler Museum (Bottom 4 Photos)