Manchester Museum undertook two Happy Museum projects aiming to investigate and embed playfulness in their museum practice.  The first project trained the museum’s visitor team to develop their understanding of play and reflection techniques. In the second project, the museum developed Rules for a Playful Museum, a playful and accessible handbook to capture the learning and experience of their experiments in playfulness.

Rules for a Playful Museum celebrates and promotes play in our shared public, cultural space and sets down some key ideas for changing or improving museum and gallery approaches towards play.  It is a beautiful A6 book ethically printed on textured, recycled paper using soya based riso inks.  You can also order free copies (while stocks last) for your museum or staff teams.  Email Anna Bunney at Manchester Museum

Read a Case Study of the Playful Museum project or check out further resources, articles and sources which can be downloaded below.  You can also join in with our blog about the rules for a playful museum.

Please do share your stories on our blog, or tweet stories and images using #playful museum. For further information about the book or the project, you can contact Anna  and co-author Charlotte Derry –

Rules for a Playful Museum


Stories and Observations about play

A Magnificently Playful Day

Dens and Skeletons. Animal play day

Dinosaur Egg and Visitor team thoughts on the Playful Museum

Observations of Children in the Museum

The Missing Dinosaur and other stories

The Museum Olympics

The Revolving Baby

The Snake

Tweets and soundbites about play

Stories from the Visitor Team

Useful sources for developing play

Babak quiz on perceptions of play

Museum and Play position statements

Play Tracker Evaluation- Graph

Playful Museum card system

Playful Museum ideas from MA Conference 2012

Staff assessment time capsule tool

Articles and Sources

Arts Professional

International Journal of Play

Museum and Play position statements

Play for Wales

Playful risk_benefit_example

United Nations Convention on the rights of a child General Comment

Images and films

Please view our playful museum image gallery on flickr at

Vision & Purpose

In a collaborative venture, between Manchester Museum on-gallery staff, playful experts and Happy Museum colleagues and partner museums, the project team aims to help inspire and embed playfulness in the Museum and Gallery sector across the UK.


Highlights of this project included the creation of the ‘rulebook’ (an aesthetic and ethical product) the creation of which prompted unexpected questions about unwritten rules for play in museum space and engendered genuine coproduction across teams.  The challenges included giving everyone a genuine voice and integrating the theme into wider Manchester Museum developments.