Here are the Happy Museum Principles

Click on each Principle heading for more information as well as relevant case studies, tools and materials.

Create the conditions for wellbeing

Why?  Communities who are Learning together, Interacting with each other, Feeling happy, active and worthwhile, Environmentally aware and caring for their surroundings (see our LIFE survey) will have higher levels of wellbeing and be more resilient.

How?  Encourage opportunities for playfulness, creativity, activity, interaction and aesthetics

Seek to understand the importance of wellbeing embracing healthy minds not just bodies, and healthy societies not just individuals. Wellbeing is about more than just smiles or positive emotions but about the quality of our lives and our relationships. Happy Museums should explore how to create the environment for these to flourish. Embody and enhance the Five Ways to Wellbeing as set out by the New Economics Foundation, which can be summarised as Connect; Be Active; Take Notice; Keep Learning and Give.

What?  Explore ways to support and enhance communal wellbeing.

Value the environment and be a steward of the future as well as the past

Why?  In the light of global challenges such as climate change, resource scarcity and financial instability, seek ways to support transition to a higher-wellbeing, lower carbon and consumption society.

What?  Lead by example, in the care of people, place and planet

Value and protect natural and cultural environments and be sensitive to the impact of the museum and its visitors upon them. Collections and the environment can be seen as part of the same ‘Museum ecology’ – its cultural and natural resources. Focus on quality and don’t be seduced by growth for its own sake. Contribute responsibly to the social, cultural and economic vitality of the local area and wider world. Acknowledge the legacy contributed by previous generations and pass on a better legacy of collections, information and knowledge to the next generation. Manage buildings and collections well, so that they will be an asset that is valued by future generations, not a burden.

How? Learn the social and financial benefits of being lean and green

Be an active citizen

Why? As the New Citizenship Project identifies – studies show that when we think of ourselves as consumers we are less likely to tackle society’s biggest problems, such as climate change while when we think of ourselves as citizens we are more likely to participate, volunteer and come together to make society stronger and more resilient.

How? Encourage everyone to find out use their full potential and engage with civic society (staff, volunteers, visitors and communities)

Museums should encourage individuals to be more active within civil society (including individuals working in museums as well as their volunteers, visitors, audiences and communities). Using what they learn from connections within their communities the work of museums can reflect current trends and issues which affect people’s daily lives. Active citizenship also relates to awareness and understanding of connectivity across the world and across time, seeking international and historical associations to contextualise local and current issues.

What? Support the needs of individuals and encourage active involvement and engagement. Work experimentally and anticipate the discomfort of change

Pursue mutual relationships

Why? To create happy, resilient teams and communities

How? Co-create, share ownership and work from the basis of mutual benefit (give and gain) with volunteers, audiences participants and staff

Work towards building more mutual relationships with your staff, communities, supporters and visitors. Explore how museum staff and public can work together, with different expertise but equal respect, to achieve common outcomes such as making a sustainable locality in which to live and work. Learn from voluntary organisations and social enterprises to try out new models of working with people. Consider new ways of working such as Human-centered design, or structures such as mutual or co-operative status.

What?   Work across hierarchies and boundaries. Be a host, brokering new relationships and becoming a hub for communities.

Learn for resilience

Why?  Communities who learn together become more resilient. As Barbara Heinzen identifies in How Societies Learn resilience and adaptation come from learning gained in small diverse groups, project by project over time.

How? Encourage learning in all it’s myriad forms

Museums enable individuals and communities to learn together. Museum learning is already all the things much orthodox learning is not: curiosity driven; non-judgmental; non-compulsory; engaging; informal and fun. The people needed in the future will be resilient, creative, resourceful and empathetic systems-thinkers, exactly the kind of capacities museum learning can support. Museums have the potential to lead in developing our understanding of why and how education needs to change to bring about these capacities

What?  Encourage learning across and between communities using the collections as a catalyst and the museum as a host.

Measure what matters

Why? To re-think what matters and be able to measure and share it more widely

How? Create a vision that embraces mutual wellbeing and sustainability and develop a shared Story of Change

Counting visitors tells us nothing about the quality of their experience or the contribution it made to their well-being. Listen to the debate about measuring happiness: watch the Office of National Statistics and their research into a happiness index; hear what think tanks and academics have to say about the subject; ask your audience how your work affects them emotionally; don’t wait for someone else to design the perfect metrics – talk to people, understand what makes them feel happier, measure that. Consider the wider environmental impacts of your work? Happiness will be short-lived if museums achieve it for this generation at the environmental expense of the next. You need to know about both so you know if you are heading in the right direction.

What? Think creatively about resources when planning and measure progress how people want you to.

For background on the development of the Principles see: