Notes from a small museum – Zen and the art of museum maintenance?

Last week we had our first full meeting with our project partners.  I wanted to start by explaining the inspiration behind our project but found myself going round in circles thinking about the 8 Happy Museum principles.

Are they about what the museum wants to achieve or about how it operates?  I guess this is much the same as Rib’s question ? is it about raising awareness or about what we actually do?

?Make people happy’, ?support learning for resilience’ and ?value the environment, the past, the present and the future’ seemed at first sight,  to me, to be more about what the museum aims to achieve for its community.   ?Pursue mutual relationships’,  ?measure what matters’, ?lead on innovation towards transition’ , ?think global, be networked’ and ?find your niche’ seemed more about the way it should  work to achieve those aims.

I can see, for instance, that ?make people happy’ is an effective and ethical way to work as well as a worthwhile aim.  This museum, like most small museums runs largely on good will and it wouldn’t last very long if it didn’t make its volunteers and supporters happy.  But it is a public service, not a private club and I don’t think we could justify its existence just because it makes the people who work here happy.  Making the community in which it is based happy (or at least happier) is a good justification.

But is there in fact any point in trying to separate purpose and process?   Is it possible (never mind ethical) to persuade other people to ?learn’ or ?value the environment’, if you are not whole-hearted about it yourself?

I’m sure we’ve all been part of projects where, if we were honest, the process ? the team building, the community spirit, the fun, were far more significant than the end result ? the performance, the fundraising event, or the exhibition.  Perhaps if we were even more honest, we would realise that this is true of most of what we do.

Are the 5 ways to wellbeing about shifting our focus from the destination to the journey?

Alison Pattison – Happy Museum Commission at Godalming Museum

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