The HAppy Museum - Museum Next 2013

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Unbridled economic growth has locked our identities to the things we possess. Our individuality is shaped by what we own rather than the relationships we have with other people or our landscape. Museums have encouraged this. If they are not seduced by the glamour of treasure, they are overly concerned with narrative so that the sole purpose of objects is to tell a linear human story, invariably one of ‘progress’.

The Happy Museum Project looks at how the museums can respond to the challenges presented by the need to create a low-carbon future where prosperity relies not on an individual’s ability to consume but on his or her capacity to co-operate and collaborate. Its proposition is that museums are well placed to play an active part, but that grasping the opportunity will require reimagining some key aspects of their role, both in terms of their relationship with their visitors and communities, but also in the way they relate to the objects in their collections

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  • Crucially it is questionable that growth witnessed in the previous twenty years is compatible with the environmental challenges which face the planet. It has been suggested that if global growth rates continue at the present level humans would need the resources of 3 more planets to sustain life to our current expectations.
  • So although the last 20 years has seen a slew of new and inspiring museums being built on the back of economic growth (growth that in the UK especially was built on debt and speculation). There is no guarantee that western economic growth will return to pre-2007 levels for at least decade, if at all.
  • Despite decades of economic growth our general wellbeing has flat-lined and inequality is rising, USA richest 20% control 80% of wealth – similar in UK and other Western Countries and getting worse. Meanwhile there is compelling research from academics like Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson that more equal societies do better. Their book, The Spirit Level   pulls together a weight of research worldwide which demonstrates that the health of our democracies, our societies and their people, is truly dependent on greater equality.
  • We redefined the purpose of the Museum of East Anglian Life as a social enterprise because we felt its strength lay not just in its collections or historic buildings but the social networks built between visitors, volunteers and people who work there. We were inspired by the New Economic Foundation’s (nef) Five Ways to Well-Being to describe the museum as a space for people to be active, learn new things, look at the world differently, make friends and give something back.
  • In the early 1970s the landlocked, autocratic Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan developed a system of Gross Domestic Happiness as a counter to GDP as a measure of economic well-being. Alongside standard economic measures, the index accounted for such social issues as time spent with families, strength of communities and impact on biodiversity. In 2005 and 2009 the radical think-tank New Economics Foundation (NEF) published the Happy Planet Index, largely inspired by work at the University of Bhutan.
  • It is this kind of change in perspective towards economic wealth that is driving a lot of much more grass roots initiatives . Ideas such as Time Banking . US model, where the currency is literally ‘time’. Instead of paying for a service, you get ‘time credit’ which you can redeem for another service at a later time. Brixton Pound – currency localised to Brixton, to encourage people to spend money locally, support small shops and businesses and generate a vibrant community. http://vimeo.com/56008622
  • I’ve worked in museums since 1997, which I think co-incides with what could be described as the good times for culture. It was a a time when expansion and growth were unprecedented. Our major towns and cities have a slew of new, beautifully designed and inspiring museums. These new museums and the policy of free admission have inspired increasing numbers of people to enjoy arts and their heritage. But this kind of exponential growth can’t go on forever. The current financial crisis has shown the limits of growth. A desire for growth has skewed the way people who work in culture think. By proving our contributes to the economic potential of a locality or the country as a whole, we get more money, with more money we can do more stuff for more people. This is fine to a point but I think it has created a rigid, mechanistic mindset in the practice of museum people. We spend much time trying to prove to treasury for the next CSR or our local authority next round of budget setting, that culture can contribute to objectives in a range of areas from reducing crime to improving educational attainment, to improving health and contributing to economic regeneration. Whilst this may be true, for me this approach has taken much of the joy out of our work. We may be culturally richer than ever before but are we happier. I think our efforts should be less geared to producing more cultural stuff and but should concentrate on the happiness of our people be they, visitors, contributors, staff or volunteers. We often pride ourselves in putting people at the heart of the museum – we should put the museum in the hearts of our people. This is the way to build the social capital which is the keystone to the resilient and sustainable communities of the future.
  • The HAppy Museum - Museum Next 2013

    1. 1. Tony ButlerDirector, Museum of East AnglianLifeMaterialism degrades matter, museumsrise it upSatish Kumar
    2. 2. Positive Psychology• Positive EmotionThe Pleasant Life• Eudaemonic FlowThe Good Life• Using your strengths tocreate something greaterthan you areThe Meaningful Life• We would spend less timetreating mental illness if wespend more time promotingmental wellness.Martin Seligman
    3. 3. • More unequal societies are badfor almost everyone withinthem – the rich as well as thepoor• Almost every modern socialand environmental problem –ill health, lack of communitylife, violence, obesity, mentalillness, long working hours bigprison populations – is morelikely to occur in a less equalsociety
    4. 4. The Western Economy… has given us wealth beyond measure, but hastaken away the chief benefits of wealth, theconsciousness of having enoughRobert and Edward Skidelsky
    5. 5. Joseph Stieglitz, The Price of Inequality:How Todays Divided Society EndangersOur FutureAmartya Sen – The Idea of Justice,Robert and Edward Skidelsky – How Muchis Enough,Diane Coyle – The Economics of Enough,
    6. 6. The Five Ways to Well-BeingConnectBe ActiveTake NoticeKeep LearningGive
    7. 7. Transition Movement
    8. 8. a sanctuary from commercial messages
    9. 9. a place for encounters
    10. 10. being psychologically present
    11. 11. giving back
    12. 12. Chiltern Open Air MuseumImperial War Museum NorthThe Beaney Art Gallery, CanterburyReading MuseumThe Garden Museum, LondonShakespeare’s BirthplaceThe Cinema Museum, LondonLondon Transport MuseumThe Manchester MuseumThe Story Museum, OxfordGodalming MuseumThe Lightbox, Woking
    13. 13. What we’ve learnt• Greatest impacts are onIndividuals as well asthan organisations• A network is morepowerful than ahierarchy• Linking well-being toenvironmentalsustainability is moredifficult than it looks• The power of speakingopenly about biggerissues and the widercontext
    14. 14. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    15. 15. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    16. 16. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    17. 17. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    18. 18. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    19. 19. Happy MuseumPrinciples1. Create conditions forwellbeing2. Pursue mutualrelationships3. Learn for resilience4. Value the environmentand be a steward ofthe future as well asthe past5. Be an active citizen6. Measure what matters
    20. 20. The value of Museumsand HappinessThe Value of Musuems to people’shappiness is £3,200 per year, perperson.This compares to:Being an audience in the Arts £2,000Participation in Arts activity £1.500Participation in Sport £1,500
    21. 21. tony.butler@eastanglianlife.org.uk01449 612229www.eastanglianlife.org.ukwww.happymuseumproject.orgTwittertonybutler1Bloghttp://tonybutler1.wordpress.com

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