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Museums and Happiness: The value of participating in museums and the arts

Measuring what matters is one of the six Principles of the Happy Museum Project. We suggest that counting visitor numbers tells us nothing about the quality of their experience or our contribution to their wellbeing.

Museums are adept at storytelling, evaluation reports which speak of transformational experiences for individuals as a result of museum activity are legion. Qualitative research has been used by museums as effective advocacy, often influencing the hearts and minds of decision makers at local level. However, we think that quantitative evidence that robustly uncovers cause and effect is more likely to influence policy makers.

So with funding support from Arts Council England we asked Daniel Fujiwara from the London School of Economics to measure and value people’s happiness as a result of visiting or participating in museum activity. This paper is one of a handful of studies that have applied robust quantitative methods on large national datasets to give us a better understanding of the impact of culture on people’s lives.

By finding that the individual wellbeing value of museums is over £3,000 a year, the report makes a strong case for investing in museums. It also identifies what makes people more likely to visit museums, giving some direction into where that investment might be best placed. It sits alongside our qualitative research which digs into how museums make a difference.

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