Story Museum – Designing a happy Museum

The Story Museum is unique among the Happy Museum’s commissions: we are the only organisation which does not yet have a physical ‘museum’ space.

So far we have run a pilot programme of events and exhibitions in Rochester House, our home on Pembroke Street and we were delighted to host the Happy Museum symposium here in November. We have just received planning permission from Oxford City Council to begin our transformation of the 12,000 sq ft site.

The question has been and continues to be how do you create a ‘happy museum’ from the ground up?

Working with Purcell architects, we have been consulting with visitors, schools, neighbours and community and heritage groups to create a museum for everyone. Our first step was to add some ‘magical’ aspects to the design, with ideas for a Narnia-esque change to the doors on the front of the building, turrets above the windows, and a fantasy library.

One thing we soon realised after people started visiting the Museum for some pilot events is that they like our atmospheric, dilapidated building just as it is. They loved the ‘rough around the edges’ feel, with secret rooms and locked safes, and we hope to preserve that sense of mystery.

So when we were offered a treasure-trove of furniture and architectural features from Oxford University’s various ancient buildings, from door frames to wrought-iron staircases, we jumped at the chance to take them in. We plan to incorporate them into our overall structure.

The Story Museum’s refurbishment will involve a mixture of old and new materials, which will also lessen our environmental impact and we hope to create somewhere that children and adults alike can call home.