The Cardiff Story Museum was one of the participants in the Happy Museum Project's initiative

Museums playing key role in Welsh government’s wellbeing agenda

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 19.12.2018
Report shows how sector is responding to Future Generations Act
A new report details how museums across Wales are engaged in innovative practice to meet the goals of the Welsh government’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Act (FGA).

Introduced in 2015, the landmark FGA legislation gives public bodies in Wales a legal obligation to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, work better with people and communities, and help prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. The Welsh government has also enshrined “cultural wellbeing” in its definition of sustainable development.

Published this month, Welsh Museums and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act details the outcomes of a partnership between the Happy Museum Project, which supports museum practice focused on wellbeing and environmental sustainability, and six museums across Wales.

The participating museums were Monmouthshire Museums Service, Cardiff Story Museum, Ceredigion Museum, Oriel Ynys Môn, Storiel and Wrexham County Borough Museum and Archives.

The partnership saw Happy Museum work with the museums to deepen their understanding of the FGA’s obligations, review how they were already responding to its goals and plan new activities and ways of working that would take their response “to the next level”.

The report showed that museums and galleries are already addressing the FGA’s seven goals through long-established activities and ways of working, citing examples such as a reminiscence project by Oriel Ynys Môn for elderly people in care home settings, and a project by Abergavenny Museum to offer workshops on weaving and beekeeping to young carers and children with special needs.

The six museums were also asked to identify a new programme of work that would boost their contribution to the FGA goals. Several of the participating museums have committed to developing bespoke methods to evaluate the impact of their wellbeing practice.

Oriel Mon is planning to develop an approach to community co-production that engages audiences and is sustainable for the museum, while Ceredigion Museum is embedding a series of measures designed to improve team wellbeing and morale.

In a foreword to the report, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, wrote: “Across the sector, there is a huge amount of good work going on, not just through museums’ traditional role as guardians of our past but also in how they can help us shape our future.”

Howe added: “If we are to make museums – places that are typically seen as places that house relics of the past – relevant for the future, we must be innovative in the ways we engage and inspire, and collaborate effectively with the public sector; ensuring we are acting today for a better tomorrow.”

Hilary Jennings, the director of the Happy Museum Project, said: “The Future Generations Act in Wales is an exemplary piece of legislation… We hope that the work of these Welsh museums will provide inspiration for the potential of museums worldwide to work in support of the wellbeing of people, place and planet.”


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20.12.2018, 22:29
The Happy Museum Project is a breath of fresh air and I have enjoyed hearing Tony Butler of Derby Museums talk about his experiences with this approach at East Anglia and Derby. However, it is a bit embarrassing to see our Future Generations Commissioner for Wales rely on cliches.She may see museums as "places that house relics of the past" but most of our visitors don't. I could share some banal cliches about government officials and civil servants, if that is the level of debate she wants.