Museum of East Anglian Life (Meal) Appoints Happiness Consultants

The Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) has become the first museum in the UK to engage Happiness Consultants. Lucy Neal and Hilary Jennings will be working to deliver the Happy Museum programme, a project designed to encourage museums to think about what it is to be a sustainable, high well being organisation.

Lucy and Hilary (full biographies below) are a new partnership of experienced practitioners with backgrounds in theatre festival production, cultural leadership, vocational education, social entrepreneurship, community activism and cultural commentary. They have worked together locally as Co-Chairs of Transition Town Tooting, and last year as Co-Authors of Sustainable Ability which mapped the cultural sector response to climate change and resource scarcity and was commissioned by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for Mission Models Money.

Led by museum director, Tony Butler, the project aims to create a community of practice in UK museums in response to the economic and environmental challenges which currently face us. The 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 the kinds of experience they provide to their visitors and the way they relate to their collections, to their communities and to the pressing issues of the day.

The project is funded by a grant allocated to Tony by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund, which is designed to support ‘emerging cultural entrepreneurs’. Tony Butler says “over the last few years MEAL has changed from being primarily a social history museum to a social enterprise. Through a range of projects including skills and learning activities for vulnerable adults as well as a more museum based events and exhibition programme we have found new ways to be connected in our community. We’ve encouraged people to become participants rather than customers so that they look at the world differently and make new friendships. I hope the project will encourage other museums to re-evaluate their place in the world”.

The project will be launched at the end of March with the publication of the pamphlet The Happy Museum co-written with the New Economics Foundation. At the same time the project will invite other museums to apply for commissions of between £10,000 and £30,000 to undertake work inspired by the findings of the paper.

The Museum of East Anglian Life is an open air museum situated in Stowmarket, Suffolk. It has collections of historic buildings and objects telling the story of the work, customs and traditions of the regions since 1800.

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