Second Round of Funds for Museums that Foster Wellbeing That Doesn’t Cost The Earth

The groundbreaking Happy Museum announces a second round of awards as part of a wider programme funded by Arts Council England’s Renaissance Strategic support fund.   Six additional UK museums and galleries have been selected to show how museums can support the transition to a high well-being, sustainable society –  bringing a total of Happy Museum Commissions to twelve.

Launched in April 2011, the Happy Museum Project is a pioneering  programme that looks at how museums in the UK can build links between sustainability, happiness and well-being to leave a legacy of long-term cultural change within their organisations and communities.

An initial first round of six awards in 2011, demonstrated a Happy Museum Manifesto was in step with the increasing number of academics, economists, psychologists and ecologists in identifying the vital linkage between sustainability and wellbeing.  The practical work of the Happy Museum commissions, now totalling twelve, helps to shed light on how thinking of these two issues in conjunction might offer the key to providing a better future.

The second phase of Happy Museum commissions is launched with awards totalling £60,000 and explores how museums build deeper dialogues with their local communities; the value of culture in fostering people’s well being and happiness;  traditional farming and sustainable crafts; working with the police and neighbourhood renewal teams; object handling in a war museum; a re-imagined 15th century woodland walk and bio-diversity in inner-city winter gardens.

The awards will go to:

  • Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury, The Paper Apothecary
  • Reading Museum, Nag Nag Nag to Reveal Our Hidden Histories
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Sounds in the Garden
  • Chiltern Open Air Museum, Green Ways from Yesterday
  • Garden Museum, London, Flowers for Love and Money
  • Imperial War Museum North, Manchester Participating With Objects

More detail about the projects can be found here.

Tony Butler, Director of The Museum of East Anglian Life and Director of the Happy Museum, who has recently been invited to speak about the Happy Museum in Sweden, France and Taiwan says:

?We are delighted the Arts Council have recognised the innovative work of the Happy Museum Project.  We are now extending the opportunity to another six more museums to explore how they can show that high well-being does not have to cost the earth.

Research in this area has taken significant steps forward of late.  New funds from the Arts Council allow us to combine the work of Mandy Barnett looking at the Happy Museum’s Story of Change with Daniel Fujiwara from London School of Economics who is working with us on statistical analysis and measuring wellbeing to create a valuation of engagement with museums.  Other institutions in the UK, such as The National Trust (Reconnecting Children With Nature: Findings of the Natural Childhood Inquiry), are also investigating the important work our cultural institutions can do to affect a shift in behavioural change in society and civic life. The Happy Museum is delighted to be a part of this important national creative enquiry.

We recognise many museums already appreciate their position in their community and many combine this with scholarship, stewardship, learning and a desire for greater participation. What the Happy Museum Project is trying to do is to show that the context is now different.

Museums have a real opportunity to imagine a positive future where we might consume less, be more mindful of our relationship with a natural environment, and create a kinder, gentler but no less interesting world.?

The commissions were chosen by a panel that included Tony Butler, Director The Happy Museum; Nick Winterbotham, Consultant, Mandy Barnett MBAssociates; Hilary Jennings and Lucy Neal OBE.

Maurice Davies, Head of Policy and Communication at The Museums Association and Editor of The Museum 2020 Consultation says:

?There is growing interest in the contribution museums can make to people’s wellbeing. The Happy Museum Project is exploring how museums can explicitly contribute to individual wellbeing, which is intimately connected to a more sustainable future.

We need a bold vision for UK museums and their impact ? to provoke radical thinking so museums can thrive in difficult times.  Every museum can do more to have a beneficial impact on individuals, communities, society and the environment.?

And Hedley Swain, Director of Museums, Arts Council England, says:

?These six new Happy Museum commissions will demonstrate how museums can be sustainable, innovative and resilient for the future, responding imaginatively to pressing economic and environmental challenges, including climate change. Arts Council England is delighted to support The Happy Museum’s bold experiment in how cultural organisations can extend their roles and responsibilities into their local and national communities.?

The 12 commissioned projects will form a community of practice at the core of a wider programme.  This will include a 2-day symposium in February 2013, introducing all commissioned projects and leading thinkers from museums and galleries to people developing work around subjective well-being along with sustainability specialists such as climate scientists, economists and environmentalists.  Two open workshops in Spring 2013 will create an opportunity for the wider museum community to find out more about the ideas and thinking behind the Happy Museum project. A peer-mentoring programme will build and develop the learning and agency of the community of practice.

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