Climate change in many homes: Ohio, New York & Samoa

by Shelby Pykare on


I’ll be the first to admit that before this grant I hadn’t really thought much about climate change and its effect on my life. I was born and raised in Ohio, a Midwestern state. We were relatively safe from any type of severe weather. Living near Lake Erie, one of the great lakes, our summers were always humid and warm while winters were cold and snowy. We practiced tornado drills in school, but I don’t remember ever actually feeling in danger of them. 

When I began my four-month study abroad program in the South Pacific island of Samoa, I had my first tangible experiences with climate change and what it can do to a place. We visited many of the villages that were hit hardest by the 2009 tsunami, I experienced my first ever earthquake, and the dry season led to rationed water. It was this last experience that made climate change a reality for me, for the first time something as ordinary yet precious as water wasn’t available to me at a moments notice. Eventually I returned to the United States, where this was no longer a problem I had to worry about on a daily basis, but that didn’t mean that it was far from my mind. I remembered what it felt like to live in that situation and found myself continuing to take precautions at home in case a similar situation should occur.

 Hurricane Sandy hit New York a few months after I had left for the first time, so I was very fortunate to have been away from both places when they were heavily affected by climate change. However I consider New York and Samoa to be homes for me, and it was hard to see and hear about all that they endured. When I moved back to New York to begin working on the Rethinking Home project, I began to learn a lot more about the issue of climate change. Attending the Collecting the Futures Conference at the American Museum of Natural History brought the concept of climate change into the museum world for me as I listened to panelists discuss how their museums could and had depict climate change for visitors.


Climate change has changed in its meaning for me since beginning this project. In addition to better understanding the scientific side of it, I’ve also had the chance to meet a group of people who are passionate about raising awareness of climate change and sharing their own personal stories with me. Through their experiences I am beginning to understand climate change in a new multi-personal way that I really value. Everyone has their own story and that is what we are doing through this project, bringing together stories from the United States and the Pacific to raise awareness that we are all touched by climate change. 


01/27/2014 Shelby Pykare


"Rethinking Home: Climate Change in New York and Samoa" is a Museum Connect Project sponsored by The U.S Department of State and The American Alliance of Museum.