The thing about Happy Museum is that they mean it, this manifesto is not for show – it’s an honest and true articulation of what matters to them, and to us all.

Al Tickell – Director Julie’s Bicycle

Museums face a host of pressing challenges – the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the cost of living crises, rising energy prices, funding pressures and more. These combine with wider, deeper and accelerating challenges: the climate and ecological emergency, systemic inequality and social injustice.

Across the cultural sector, organisations are engaging and responding with these issues with greater urgency and more boldness.

At Happy Museum, we see the wellbeing of people, place and planet as even more important, and at risk. This is a critical moment to re-consider the role of museums in creating a resilient and regenerative society: facing current realities whilst bringing a positive, imaginative and future facing frame.

We seek to support and collaborate with others and to create new programmes and projects with museums working towards civic and social change. We work with others to move from ideas to actions that have meaning and impact for them in their different contexts and localities.

Building on 12 years of HM learning, and on our recent peer-learning and conversation programme, No Going Back, we have revisited our Story of Change and refreshed the Happy Museum Manifesto.


I hope that this manifesto doesn’t sit in a drawer for a year, but is a constantly changing document that we can use to learn from others about the gaps in our knowledge or perspectives.

Peter Lefort – University of Exeter (see video of full response below

We see this as a living document – the start of a conversation as well as a stimulus to action

We would welcome your thoughts and reflections. What opportunities does it open up for museums? What does this mean to you/ look like from your museum’s perspective? What steps have you taken/ what actions have you seen other museums take or done yourselves which respond to this frame?  What might be the challenges?

Share your thoughts with us at

Here are some initial reflections from our Steering Group and Community of Practice.

This manifesto is not just about what: it is also about how. In times of crisis, to avoid harmful, wasteful and ineffective decisions and activities, it is essential that we are not overwhelmed by the urgency of the situation. The manifesto advocates for thoughtful, caring, and collaborative practice; for embracing the uncertainties and complexity that this will involve, and for being open and honest about the processes we follow and the practices we adopt.’ Dr Hannah-Lee Chalk Learning Manager | Manchester Museum

In the face of awesome threats and unfolding catastrophe, it’s natural to feel sad, overwhelmed, angry and powerless and so I hope anyone dedicating their working life to museums will take courage and inspiration from this manifesto; that they will join in with the movement and make discoveries about their own unique abilities to bring about change in the world that surrounds them.’ Brendan Carr, Community Engagement Curator, Reading Museum

Reflections from Peter Lefort, University of Exeter, co-chair of Transition Network

Our world, museums and their communities need a new story that identifies and challenges the myths and misperceptions that threaten all of us – such as the belief that continuous economic growth is the key to our well-being. We must move beyond this belief  to the recognition that the connection between individuals, communities and nature is the key to our collective well-being.‘ – Robert Janes, Visiting Research Fellow, Museum Studies (University of Leicester, UK) and Founder and Co-Chair, Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

HM is an empathic community (care) – offering sanctuary to think with others and normalize (if that’s at all possible) anxieties – it’s the stage before people take-action that Happy Museum does so very well!’ Ruth Clarke – Happy Museum Associate

People care deeply – for one another and the wider world. Our collective hope for the future – our own future and our children’s – rests entirely on this care. Yet today, our commitment to caring for one another – which shows up in such diverse, and at times even contradictory, ways – often goes uncelebrated, unencouraged or even unnoticed. Museums can be in the vanguard of a movement to reverse this: to provide spaces in which people can come together to give voice to this care, and celebrate one another, in myriad ways.’ Tom Crompton, Common Cause Foundation

This means so much – to have a community to create with and share responses to global and local issues of climate and social injustice within our cultural lives and spaces. The integrity and quality of thinking ad support with Happy Museum are so nourishing, it makes anything seem possible.’ Charlotte Derry – Playful Places

The  thing about Happy Museum is that they mean it, this manifesto is not for show… [or positioning] – it’s an honest and true articulation of what matters to them, and to us all.  Happy Museum is a profoundly good place to stop for a while, a rest in the shade, a leafy tree, a walk in the hills – for me, JB and so many others who have been inspired and motivated by their work over many years. Here is a promise of more to come and it can’t happen soon enough.’ Al Tickell, Director, Julie’s Bicycle