Nature connectedness – A new lens for natural heritage collections

Why is it important for museums to help us connect to nature? In a world where we define ourselves through technology and often see ourselves as separate from nature, for the benefit of nature and the wellbeing of humankind, there is a need to engage people with the natural world and help them to understand their place within it.

Nature connectedness is a theory about the relationship between humans and the natural world, based on the extent to which we feel part of nature (from completely separate to completely part of it). It helps us to think about how we understand and experience the natural world through our thoughts, emotions and feelings, and how we use it to support our creativity, imagination and ideas. It is a powerful way to engage people because it replicates how we connect with nature in the everyday.

Our relationship with the natural world is complex, made up of different values and associations, the meanings we attach to it and the benefits we derive from it. Biophilia (developed and popularised by Wilson and Kellert) is the theory that all human life, society and culture has been formed in response to our relationship with the natural world. We have a close affiliation with nature – not only do we rely on nature for everyday living, but our senses, emotions, even our intellect have all been developed in connection with our relationship to the natural world.

In this short film, Henry McGhie, Head of Collections and Curator of Zoology at Manchester Museum, introduces the concept of nature connectedness.

Connection to nature is an important part of our wellbeing and it can have a positive impact on our mental and physical health. But how do we connect to nature? Often, organisations like museum use knowledge or identification-based activities to connect people to nature. However researchers Lumber, Richardson and Sheffield found that much more effective pathways to nature connection are based around contact, emotion, meaning, compassion and beauty. This identifies a real value in using concepts such as nature connectedness.

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Engaging with natural heritage collections