Rules for a playful museum

Rules for a playful museum


This rulebook is a collection of ideas and principles that have developed through experiments with play at Manchester Museum.

Play can be fleeting, unpredictable and sometimes nonsensical, so you may ask: Why would we encourage play in a museum? What is the point
of creating rules about play anyway?

We think protecting children’s right and freedom to play in shared social space is a serious matter.

By presenting our ideas as a rulebook, we are challenging our tendency as adults to place controls upon children’s play. In museums, concerns about the safety of exhibits and collections can add another level of constraint placed upon children. Our rules suggest ways of thinking differently which may help re-prioritise these concerns.

We are also inspired by the curious and fascinating set of ever-changing rules in children’s play. Our rules aim to promote a greater appreciation of play in museums, together with support for all the creativity and enjoyment that this may bring.

We think there’s a need for museums to question what they expect from children, and to think about how they can respond to children’s desire to play. We hope that our book of rules will prompt you to think seriously about play, and will help you develop and enjoy your own playful museum.

Charlotte Derry, Rulebook Project Lead

In 2012, Manchester Museum gained funding from the Happy Museum to provide training for our visitor team to develop their awareness and understanding about play. We recognise that not everyone has access to this kind of training and so we are delighted to be able to share our learning with this rulebook.

Our work is driven by a belief in the fundamental right for children to play, as expressed in Article 31 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Children’s capacity for imagination and their desire
to play in museum spaces enables well-being and enhances their potential for future creativity, play and inspiration. We hope that this book will inspire you too.

Anna Bunney, Engagement Manager, Manchester Museum

Download the rulebook 

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Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2019