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MCL phase one

How museums can transform their contribution to contemporary life
Phase one of Museums Change Lives is the Museums Association’s vision for the increased social impact of museums.

It demonstrates that museums can be ambitious about their role in society. All museums, however they are funded and whatever their subject matter, can support positive social change.

Some museums already pay great attention to this; others have as yet untapped potential. The time is right for museums to transform their contribution to contemporary life.

As public expenditure continues to be cut, it is more important than ever to have a strong sense of social purpose. Funders and policy makers expect museums to achieve greater social outcomes and impact.

Individuals and communities are under stress and every museum must play its part in improving lives, creating better places and helping to advance society, building on the traditional role of preserving collections and connecting audiences with them.

Phase one of Museums Change Lives explores impacts under three headings:

Museums Change Lives aims to enthuse people in museums to increase their impact, encourage funders to support museums in becoming more relevant to their audiences and communities, and show organisations the potential partnerships they could have with museums, to change people’s lives.

Principles of Museums Change Lives:

  • Every museum is different, but all can find ways of maximising their social impact
  • Everyone has the right to meaningful participation in the life and work of museums
  • Audiences are creators as well as consumers of knowledge; their insights and expertise enrich and transform the museum experience for others
  • Active public participation changes museums for the better
  • Museums foster questioning, debate and critical thinking
  • Good museums offer excellent experiences that meet public needs
  • Effective museums engage with contemporary issues
  • Social justice is at the heart of the impact of museums
  • Museums are not neutral spaces
  • Museums are rooted in places and contribute to local distinctiveness

Links and downloads

Museums Change Lives full report (pdf)

Case studies


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Tamsin Russell
MA Member
Organisational Development Projects Manager, National Museums Scotland
29.07.2013, 11:07
Really love the Museums Change Lives approach and supporting documentation. A reflection is that the MA Code of Ethics is such a clear and powerful document that creates a strong foundation for this work that i find it strange it is not referenced or integrated explictly. Views?
03.07.2013, 18:37
Museums are an essential part of our society, they enlighten, inspire , inform. All children should access to them, adults too, they have been an part of my life since I was young, they have adapted for the 21st century. I graduated in 2010, I am determined to gain a post in a museum, it is my ambition, put on hold, whilst I did domestic jobs,as my family grew. Times are difficult but I am determined to achieve my goal, because to me museums are the place I feel I can really enjoy my work, and help the public to gain the enjoyment I have all my life. Without museums the world would be a poorer place.