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Resilience: from adversity to new strengths

We are used to facing some difficulties on a daily basis: broken exhibits, unhappy visitors, confused rush before the opening of a project… but what happens when we face something bigger? Current events teach us that crisis and even disaster occur frequently even when we can’t predict them or plan how to react.

In this session, each speaker will be delivering a short PechaKucha presentation about an external dramatic situation that affected his or her sorganisation. How did it overcome this event and rebound from adversity?

And who knows? This cathartic exercise might reveal that our organisations have become stronger and more resourceful. Just as individuals can learn to develop personal traits of resilience, so too can organisations develop a culture of resilience.


Julie Becker
Senior Graphic Designer | Project Manager

Session legacy

This summary was put together by this session's convenor, with the help of all speakers, who are also all gladly sharing their presentations, here.

Our introductory speaker Joonas Juutilainen, currently working on a "Natural disasters and resilience" exhibition at the Heureka science centre (Finland), shared insights he collected from experts through his current content development work. He defined resilience as "recovering quickly from disaster". Collective resilience requires "people in need of help helping other people in need of help", he explained, and the one most important thing you can do to build resilience in your community is... to say "good morning" to your neighbours.

A few phrases heard in the case study presentations that followed:

  • Yasushi talking about the way Miraikan was affected by the 2011 earthquake, re-built its ceiling using a new technology and developed programming strands around disaster planning: "risk literacy", "disaster heritage"
  • Claire talking about the way recent elections affected Exploratorium: "science thrives on curiosity", "continue doing what we do with even greater committment", "we have to keep earning the trust of the public", "offering tools to evaluate scientific claims"
  • Christelle on the fire that resulted in Cité des sciences being closed for 6 weeks and developing its own exhibition on fire: "turning a trauma into an exhibition", "involving unusual staff members (fire prevention team) in exhibition develoment"
  • Melanie on the way the Neanderthal Museum staff decided to take a stance in the so-called "refugee crisis", having to try several actions before finding the right voice & action (an exhibition called '2 million years of migration'): "initial shock", "good will is not enough", "a whole team involvement", "self-reflection"
  • Cybèle on having to deliver a large permanent exhibition whose planned location changed several times (until late in the process) and that had to be installed during a 6 month long staff strike: "a story of changes", "you need to still have fun", "adapt to the situations you can't change"

Session speakers

Principle Investigator of Science Communication
A huge earthquake happened in Japan on March 11, 2011, damaged our museum building as well as “trust” on scientists and technologies. The disaster gave us opportunity to reconsider what science is, what a role of scientists is, and what the ultimate goal of science communication is. We replaced the broken ceilings as well as our mission we have to achieve via science communication activities.
Developer for Special Projects
With the recent United States election and previous political movements, science museums are becoming more important as a place for individuals to be empowered and engage directly with science phenomena, process, and evidence. The Exploratorium has participated in outreach activities and developed new programs to help address these challenges and share science with a diverse audience on current critical or contentious issues.
Exhibit developer and Curator
Here at the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, the building suffered a violent fire in August 2015. Closed during seven weeks, we were torn between emotion and fascination about this phenomenon that caused serious damage. It was the starting point for our exhibition on Fire ; to let the visitors know what is at stake when mastering Fire.
Melanie Wunsch Neanderthal Museum
Head of Exhibitions
The so called “refugee crisis” affected us personally in 2015. This encounter had such a strong impact on us that we decided to do something in our museum. We wanted to be relevant for our society and to contribute to our current societal challenges actively more than ever before. We decided to become political and to take a clear stand in the public. This changed the team and the museum. We became more aware of topics like inclusion and equity and will work on these issues in the future.
Director, Programming
Cybèle Robichaud is the new director of programming and following a year of huge changes here, it is the perfect timing to talk of what happened in our science centre during the 5 months strike last summer. Discover how this event has transformed the Montreal Science Center.