The Best Museums to Get Your Happy On
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you’ve seen enough dusty old relics of the past.
By Ian Graber-Stiehl
In this original series, Extreme Museums, join OZY for a look at some of the world’s weirdest and wildest exhibitions. Read more.
The thought of museums usually conjures images of stuffy, musty, dark and decidedly grim mausoleums of the past with not much on show to elicit a hearty laugh or even a sideways snicker (at least not intentionally). But you might be surprised to know that there are museums created solely to celebrate happiness — whether profound little moments of joy or belly-busting laughter in response to the comedic or absurd. Here’s your guide to a few places that celebrate the glorious guffaw as well as the quiet fleeting moments that make us smile.
“One of the things that’s so interesting about joy, as opposed to happiness, for example, is that it is very fleeting,” says Jericha Senyak, founder of the Museum of Joy. “[It] strikes you like lightning.” That fleeting, poetic quality intrinsic to joy, and Senyak’s longtime fascination with oddball collections, inspired her to open her own menagerie of happiness-inducing curiosities. The Museum of Joy currently operates as a series of pop-up installations, performances and art (Senyak hopes to eventually establish a brick-and-mortar location in San Francisco) that aim to help people experience, and get educated about, joy. One of the museum’s most popular immersive experiences is a lunary labyrinth of candles in paper bags. “We just tell people it’s there,” Senyak says, and their curiosity immediately guides them through. With the exhibits just as ephemeral as the subject they focus on, the best bet is to check Facebook for upcoming events.
The Museum of Comedy
When Martin Witts, a three-decade veteran of the comedy industry, decided to get married, there was one condition: He had to clear out the 6,000-plus comedic artifacts he’d amassed, including British comedian Bill Bailey’s six-neck guitar, performance flyers, magic tricks and various photographs and props. That clearing out resulted in the 2014 establishment of the Museum of Comedy at Leicester Square Theatre (which Witts had helped reopen six years prior and where he now serves as director), a space that claims to be “one of the most comprehensive collections of comedy memorabilia ever to be amassed in one place.” Unlike most museums, though, visitors here can interact with some of the funny, outrageous relics that set comedic trends and became the cornerstone of acclaimed acts. Performances and movies take place at the small attached theater.
Free museum admission. Cost of performances vary.
Back in 2014, the Museum of Happiness in London was the quaint idea of co-founders Shamash Alidina, Victoria Johnson and Rosa Connor. “We wanted to offer a sanctuary where people of all ages and backgrounds could come together to feel safe, peaceful and happy and learn about their own well-being,” they told the Good News Network this past summer. For a while their little museum took the form of fun, interactive exhibits on the themes of kindness, creativity, community and mindfulness — what they believe to be the core tenets of happiness — in a pop-up shed. Last year, though, the trio raised enough money to move into Arlington House, a large homeless hostel, which allowed space to host a variety of interactive workshops. Visitors can get their happy on via mindfulness origami, laughing yoga (you read that right), art, ukulele lessons, dancing and more — all designed to explore the science of happiness.
Cost and hours of workshops/exhibits vary.
- Ian Graber-Stiehl, OZY Author Contact Ian Graber-Stiehl