What is the Cantie Museum?

The Cantie Museum is a Scottish take on the Happy Museum Project. There are no politics behind the choice of title, but rather a bit of cultural flavouring, which holds good whatever the political backdrop in Scotland might be when you read this. It’s taken from Burns’s 1794 song, ‘Contented wi’ little, cantie wi’ mair’.

‘Mair’ of what though? Money? Stuff? Collections? Visitors? Lumps o’ puddin’? Take a look at the New Economics Foundation’s five ways to wellbeing, and you’ll gather that happiness is not about growth of material wealth and unsustainable self-indulgence. It’s about people doing more connecting, being active, taking notice, learning and giving.

The Cantie Museum believes that museums exist to give people opportunities to do all of these. Through these we create the conditions for wellbeing.

No doubt you can give examples of how your museum is already working towards these, giving people opportunities to achieve happiness and helping to create a better community life. We’re doing this stuff already aren’t we? The Cantie Museum is just another bit of intellectual navel-gazing isn’t it? Well no, this is serious. One of the principles above is valuing the environment and being a steward of the future as well as the past. “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”, and the Cantie Museum is different because it seeks to create the conditions for wellbeing without costing the Earth.

There is no bigger challenge to human society than the challenge of creating a sustainable future. It’s more than changing to low-energy light bulbs or recycling the loo paper. This challenge demands new economic paradigms, those new paradigms need new understanding of what constitutes prosperity and success, and that understanding needs to be based on different cultural assumptions. Museums have a key role to play because they are places where culture can and should be negotiated, not least the culture of inheritance.

The Cantie Museum Launched in February 2014 and a Cantie Museum community of practice is already developing in Scotland, picking up on the fantastic work done by the Happy Museum. We know that our museums are doing Cantie Museum-type work, but we want to mainstream it. There’s too much at stake not to.

How can your museum be involved?

There are lots of ways that you and your museum can get involved. What you decide will need to suit your museum, resources available to you and local circumstances. To get started, here are just a few examples:

  • Start a conversation! Speak to your colleagues, your manager, volunteers, visitors and Friends about Cantie Museum. Gather opinions and ideas about the philosophy and what a Cantie Museum would look like for each of you.
  • Think about each of the six principles. Do they already appear in some form in your museum’s policy or plans? You could consider using them to review how your organisation works, perhaps in the creation of forward plans or for evaluating your existing programmes.
  • Develop a Cantie Museum project. Would you like to explore one or more of the principles in practice – test the water and see what impact there may be? You could use the opportunity to work in partnership with another museum, with local people or groups in your community.
  • Spread the word. Use your website and social media and generally let people know what you are doing and why. Most of all, it is your imagination and drive that will reveal to you, and everyone else, what you can do.

Cantie Museum Flyer

For more information on the Cantie Museum, contact peter@stott.wanadoo.co.uk

For more information on New Economics Foundation and Five Ways to Wellbeing.

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