ABOUT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

The Natural History Museum (NHM) is a program of Not An Alternative, a non-profit organization and collective that works at the interaction of art, activism, cultural organizing, and critical theory.

Since launching in 2014, NHM has grown into an institution in its own right, leveraging the power of history, museums, monuments, and movements to change narratives, build alliances, educate the public and drive civic engagement in support of community-led movements for climate and environmental justice.

NHM strategies include developing award-winning films, exhibitions, and public cultural events; publishing; coalition-building, and advocacy. This artist statement situates NHM’s work within Not An Alternative’s broader art/activism practice. 

Not An Alternative (est. 2004) is a collective and non-profit that works at the intersection of art, activism, and critical theory. We have a mission to affect popular understandings of histories, symbols, and institutions. Not An Alternative’s work has been exhibited in museums around the world, including Guggenheim, PS1/MOMA, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Queens Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Museo del Arte Moderno, and was cited in The New York Times and ArtNet’s “Best in Art in 2015” round-ups.

Our latest, ongoing project is The Natural History Museum (NHM, 2014—), a traveling, pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature. The museum inquires into what we see, how we see, and what remains excluded from our seeing. Working with artists, activists, Native Nations, scientists, and museum professionals, NHM organizes exhibitions inside museums that interpret environmental history according to new coordinates–connecting local threats and movements to protect the environment, public health, and local cultures to the history of museums, the legacy of colonialism, and to ongoing concerns about cultural and environmental heritage. Our aim is to unleash the power of museums, motivating them to act not as shrines to a civilization in decline, but as agents of change.

NHM brings together Indigenous leaders, environmental organizers, scientists and scholars in the hopes of building a community of practice around a natural history for the future. This future is aligned with movements for climate and environmental justice, informed by a non-dominating and non-exploitative relation to the land, and guided by an obligation to generations past, present and future.

Our practice reckons with the extractive history of natural history–the discipline’s participation in colonial processes of dispossession and nation-building, with an aim of uplifting a countervailing practice of natural history: one that relates to the natural world as a system of reciprocal relations between humans and non-humans, the elements and the land, and which recognizes the museum not as a keeper of the dead but as a custodian of the life that runs through everything—inside, under, and beyond the museum.

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Judith LeBlanc (Caddo)

Alexis Bunten (Aleut/Yup’ik)

Rosalyn LaPier (Blackfeet / MĂ©tis)

Shelley Means (Ojibwe / Lakota)

Lise Van Susteran

Laura Raicovich

Marc Weiss

ADVISORY BOARD

Betsy Theobald Richards (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), Director of Creative Strategies and Public Programs, The Opportunity Agenda

Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma), President and CEO of Echo Hawk Consulting and Founding Director of Reclaiming Native Truth

Eric Chivian, Founder and Former Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985

Faith Spotted Eagle (Yankton Sioux), Founding Member, Braveheart Society

James Powell, Geochemist; Former President and Director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and former President of the Franklin Museum of Science

Judith LeBlanc (Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma), Founding Director, Native Organizers Alliance

Kert Davies, Director, Climate Investigations Center

Kii’iljus / Barbara J. Wilson (Haida Nation), Fellow at the Pacific Institute for Climate Change (PICS)

Lise Van Susteran, Psychiatrist, Co-Founder, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate

Mark Dion, artist

Michael Johnson (Arikara/Hidatsa/Ojibwe), Assistant Director of Development, Native American Rights Fund

Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology; Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University

Naomi Klein, Award-winning journalist and author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Robert R. Janes, Ph.D. , Archaeologist, Museologist, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Museum Management and Curatorship

Rosalyn LaPier (Blackfeet), Author, Ethnobotanist, Scholar, Member of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and Research Associate at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Shelley Means (Ojibwe/Lakota), Native Community Consultant for Native Voices Rising, Trainer with Native Organizers Alliance

TEAM

Beka Economopoulos, Executive Director

Jason Jones, Creative Director

Ruth Miller (Dena’ina Athabaskan), Storytelling Organizer

Julian Brave Noisecat (Secwepemc/St’at’imc), Narrative Change Director

Karina Yager (Quechua), Director of Education

Steve Lyons, Director of Research

Mark Auslander, Senior Research Fellow

Special Thanks to Our Supporters

  • Chorus Foundation
  • Overbrook Foundation
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Heinz Foundation
  • Hewlett Foundation
  • National Geographic Foundation
  • Resources Legacy Fund
  • Invoking The Pause of RSF Social Finance
  • Canada Council for the Arts
  • Beespace NYC
  • LUSH Charity Pot
  • A Blade of Grass
  • Patagonia Foundation
  • Global Wallace Fund
  • Compton Foundation
  • Voqal Fund
  • Horton Foundation Fund
  • Benoona Fund of RSF Social Finance
  • The New York Community Trust
  • Solidaire
  • Scintilla Foundation
  • Argosy Foundation
  • Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts