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
Emerging from the first two years of Covid 19, museums face a host of pressing challenges – the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the cost of living crises, rising energy prices, pressure on funding streams 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.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. I hope it is a reminder of how much we don’t know yet, and how many unanswered questions lie ahead.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. The Happy Museum remains a collective endeavour and this manifesto builds on its previous work to set out how it will nurture the connections between people, place, and planet, to become active participants in shaping a more hopeful future.’ 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. I believe it is this which will hasten the essential process of equitable transition and adaptation to the future.’ Brendan Carr, Community Engagement Curator, Reading Museum
‘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. The Happy Museum Manifesto is both an inspiration and catalyst to assist with this essential task of envisioning a new future. Every museum, with its knowledge base, public accessibility, and public trust, is equipped to do this.‘ – Robert Janes, Visiting Research Fellow, Museum Studies (University of Leicester, UK) and Founder and Co-Chair, Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice
‘It’s a great document – thank you for making it happen! 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. I am continually delighted to be involved, inspire of the challenges we face. This is what we all need right now, and to continue feeling that we can make a difference in small ways that can have a huge impact. Let’s do it!’ 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