Call for Objects: Weathered History – The Material Side of Past Climate Change

Weathered History – The Material Side of Past Climate Change

Extended Deadline:        15 November 2019


Contemporary, but also historical climate change is, in itself, beyond the scale of human perception, but scholars can combine instrumental data, proxy information, and written sources to reconstruct these patterns. What humans could in the past and today still can perceive are meteorological extremes:  droughts, heat waves, strong precipitation, floods, cold spells, and storms. Such extreme historical events, however, have generally left only indirect evidence in the material heritage of past human societies. The Virtual Exhibition ‘Weathered History’ presents this legacy to a wider public.

The climate historical working group “Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies” (CRIAS), as a part of the PAGES network, aims to demonstrate to the public how environmental change and historical interactions of humans with their environment also have a material side. We are therefore planning to exhibit and contextualize a variety of objects related to:

  • Remembering Disaster: This aspect can include a variety of objects like floodmarks and inscriptions related to meteorological extreme events; paintings on disastrous weather conditions, but also modern monuments on disappearing glaciers. But if we have disasters that leave their traces only in scientific proxy data like tree-rings, etc. also these objects are carriers of disaster memory. A further consideration is the possible influence of specific climatic events on the arts and literature, from images to poems.
  • Adaptation and Prevention: At least in their self-perception, humans are influencing weather for thousands of years: Especially in a religious context, weather is an expression of the relation between humanity and the supranatural and hence illustrating the big questions of human societies. And yet, humanity has a long history of adapting and preparing against harmful weather impacts. All kind of objects used in weather-rituals and technical means of influencing the weather; but also infrastructures to guard against weather-related damage. Inventions and innovations that can be reasonably connected to slow or rapid climate change are also attractive.
  • Famine and Weather: Meteorological impacts on food production are the most common problem for historical societies connected to past climate events. Most societies found very specific ways to cope with dearth and famine in the wake of periods of bad weather, like more sophisticated storage systems, new connections to trade and choosing other options to feed themselves. And still the question of lacking livelihoods by rapid climate change, hence causing migration movements, is at the core of contemporary concerns.

To this end, we appreciate object proposals by scholars from a wide variety of disciplines throughout the humanities and sciences and all cultural and chronological contexts. We will try to connect a selection of the proposed objects (about 10-15 on each topic) into a coherent story that

We invite proposals in the form of one image of the object and an accompanying 200-word text, written for a broad audience of non-specialists, that contextualizes the object and how it relates to one of the aforementioned aspects. Proposals should ideally include one or two bibliographical or online references for further reading. We prefer to have images in the public domain or whose copyright holder is willing to provide free of charge, but as we have an experienced team of exhibition makers at hand that will try to obtain permissions, please don’t limit your proposed objects by concerns regarding licences, etc.  You can as well propose more than one object.

Three examples and a template for object proposals can be downloaded.

While proposals should provide as much information as currently possible, further details can be clarified or added later. Please send the completed template as a PDF plus a separate image file (best resolution available, JPG format) to by

15 November 2019.

Contributors will be credited by name for each specific object in the online exhibition, just as within a printed exhibition catalogue.

We plan an online exhibition to be hosted on the Google Arts and Culture platform within the context of Germany’s Leibniz Association’s activities there. We aim at realizing this exhibtions within early 2020.

The Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig will employ a web exhibition designer to assist in the creation of a visually appealing and effective presentation of objects related to climate history for a large, global audience. Depending on the number and quality of object proposals, this online exhibition could be the first step towards an actual exhibition project at international museums in the near future. Also a relatively simple spin-off, probably as mobile exhibition displays for use in different international venues, is planned.