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Case Study
  • Categories: Nurturing ideas and people

Tony Butler

Total Breakthrough support: £196,000

Tony Butler was Director of the Museum of East Anglian Life (MEAL) when he was awarded his Breakthrough grant. The grant supported him in two key areas. In 2009, it allowed him to expand MEAL’s work with volunteers as part of its social enterprise vision of wellbeing and social purpose within its local community, funding a new post of Participation Officer for three years to further build involvement and partnerships. Alongside this, the main proportion of the grant was confirmed later in 2010, when Tony proposed to PHF the final form of the Happy Museum Project that he wished to initiate – a sectoral initiative to invite museums to reflect on the need for a holistic approach to wellbeing and sustainability, and to undertake commissioned projects exploring new practice in this regard. Breakthrough support allowed the publication of the initial provocation piece The Happy Museum Manifesto, a cluster of Happy Museum Commissions, and the appointment of Project Associates to help lead the project and its evaluation.

Since then Arts Council England have supported a further four rounds of commissions, as well as new research to value and analyse the wellbeing effect of museums. Tony’s Breakthrough grant concluded in 2013. Tony is now Director of the Derby Museums Trust, which he joined in early 2014. The Happy Museum Project movement continues and has just announced a five-year plan.

Edna of ‘Vintage Sweethearts’ encourages children to re-use, recycle and play at Chiltern Open Air Museum’s ‘Go Green and Carry On’ celebration of sustainable practises from the past, March 2013. (Image: Ben Lees)