The thing about museums is that for the most part, they exhibit things that have taken a place in history—even if that history was just nine or ten months ago, in some cases. So the irony of opening a museum focusing on happiness, while in the middle of a global pandemic, is either a deliciously clever one…or perhaps one that is just a little depressing.
Said institution, pithily titled The Museum of Happiness, has just opened in Copenhagen, curated by the awesomely named Happiness Research Institute. One can certainly see the sense in locating such a place in a country which experiences about 170 rainy days per annum—though Denmark actually recently finished second only to Finland in the World Happiness Report. So take your pick whether the intention of the museum is to bring about happiness, or merely to celebrate it.
“The UN has put happiness on the agenda with that report,” says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Institute, “where Denmark is repeatedly ranked as one of the countries in the world that is best for creating well-being, happiness and quality of life. Therefore, we think it is an obvious home for a museum that focuses on how we create a better framework for good lives.”
Wiking should know. He has written three best-selling books on the subject, including The Little Book of Lykke, The Little Book of Hygge and The Art of Making Memories, which have been collectively published in 50+ countries.
The museum itself, fitted into an 18th Century building along the Admiralgade, in Copenhagen’s Old Town, features eight rooms with titles like The History of Happiness, The Geography of Happiness, The Politics of Happiness, and, most intriguingly, The Science of Happiness—the latter which will surely eventually be protested by American Evangelicals. Visitors can hear a speech by JFK questioning the role of economic prosperity in cultivating contentment; scan a wall of post-it notes with assorted international peoples’ individual definitions of the “H” word; and test emotional recognition technology, seeking to better understand tech’s role in our quest for genuine serenity. (Sadly, there’s no gift shop yet, in case you were wondering if “happiness” were available for purchase.)
But considering what the last six months have wrought, we wouldn’t be surprised if there were a perpetual bottleneck to gain access to The Smile room, something which has decisively alluded us in this rather miserable calendar year of 2020. Here, one is tasked with testing one’s resistance to contagious laughter—and we’re very much looking forward to trying and failing.
Wiking concludes, “Our hope is guests will leave a little wiser, a little happier and a little more motivated to make the world a better place.”
So, if it even need be said, don’t expect to be bumping into Mitch McConnell here.