Tom Jeffery

Tom Jeffery


Tom Jeffery

BA (Hons.) UPE / NM‌MU; MA English, Rhodes University.


Tom Jeffery is Curator of Exhibitions at the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown. He is a part-time PhD student at the ELRC. His research is exploring climate change education in South Africa museums. The broad research questions are: Why should South African museums have a focus on climate change in their programmes of education and exhibition? What should/could they be doing; and how can they go about putting such a focus into practice?


Despite the facts that climate change is going to have a range of profound social effects to which South Africa is particularly vulnerable over a relatively short time frame, and that museums are social institutions with social responsibility as one of the core functions that underpin their sustainability, climate change remains an insignificant theme in South African museology, most particularly in cultural museums. The implication of this is that museums are neither prepared nor preparing for the impacts of climate change on their practice. Without such preparation, they will find themselves irrelevant to society’s most pressing concerns as these evolve with the changing climate. While the challenges of transformation and relevance, which preoccupy museums particularly in the post-colonial situation, cannot be underestimated or ignored, their ongoing resolution must be partnered with an awareness of the impacts of climate change, which are predicted to cause damage to our society of an order comparable to that caused by colonialism and apartheid.


Museums are well positioned to act to assist in climate mitigation efforts, as they are accessible conduits for informal learning in a public context. However, this research will demonstrate that they are prepared to do so in terms of neither policy nor practice. It is the intention of this project to provide South African museums with the motivation and as far as is possible, the capacity, to begin to respond to the climate crisis.

This project will consist of two parts: firstly, a theoretical section, and secondly, a practical output in the form of a museum exhibition and education programme that deal with climate change.


The working title for the project is ‘Museums for the Planet: Climate Change and the Social Sustainability of South African Museums’.


The supervisor is Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka.

Last Modified: Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:20:12 SAST