skip to main content

Young people ‘must be able to help shape life of museums’, participation project finds

20 January 2022


Major reforms are needed to make museums more accessible, inclusive and relevant to young people, according to
a new report published today.

The Living Museums project, delivered by national charity Children in Scotland from June 2020 - December 2021, aimed to ensure that 14-21-year-olds were included and heard within museums and that their views and experiences were represented.

Recommendations made in the project’s final report address changes required to better recognise young people’s right to participate fully in cultural life; improve staff training on participation; and strengthen collaboration to make museum content more appealing for younger audiences.

They include:

  • Funding bodies in the heritage sector should continue to provide opportunities for museums to engage with young people on projects that are led directly by them, and allow them to share their views and experiences
  • A training and development package should be rolled out by national heritage and culture organisations to support engagement and co-design work in museums and heritage settings
  • All museums should be supported to develop an advisory group or board so young people can feed into their ongoing work
  • Leaders in the museum sector need to push for a change in approach that moves away from KPIs focused on targets of ‘numbers of young people engaged with…’ towards high quality, ongoing engagement
  • Museums should be encouraged to undertake Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments on their work to ensure they are embedding children’s rights and maximising the impact of their work
  • Museums should explore new, relevant issues with young people through co-design projects, and build these into museum programmes
  • Recruitment for roles in the museum and heritage sector should aim to actively encourage staff with a background in community engagement or participative approaches.
  • Whilst recognising that a lot of good practice already exists within the heritage sector in terms of engagement with young people, the report stresses that this must be strengthened.

The project worked across three different museums in Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Dumfries and Galloway, bringing together museum partners and youth work organisations in each of these three localities.

Groups of young people were recruited in the three project areas to engage with local partners and establish new ways of involving 14-21-year-olds in the sector. Each group also devised their own exhibitions, which ran in the project areas last autumn.

The report’s author and project lead Chris Ross, Senior Policy Officer at Children in Scotland, said:

“Living Museums has shown routes for engaging young people and highlighted that co-design approaches can support a sustainable future by engaging new audiences and creating links that will last beyond the life of the project.

“However, commitments to changing approaches are needed. Participation of communities needs to be at the heart of future strategic planning in the sector, such as that currently being conducted by Museums and Galleries Scotland.

There needs to be a package of training rolled out to support staff within and across the sector to develop their knowledge and understanding of participation and engagement. Responsibility for participation and engagement also needs to be embedded within senior roles to ensure that it is promoted.

“There is a desire to take this work forward from our project partners and we look forward to seeing where that leads. However, it will also require systemic change to move to a place where museums are truly spaces for and by young people which they feel ownership of.”

“As the project concludes, we’d like to thank our projects partners, our funders – and particularly all the young people who took part.”

Click here to download the report

Click here for more information about the project

Media contact: Chris Small,

Notes for editors:

The Living Museums project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, with the support of Holywood Trust and Fort Teviot Foundation. It brought together young people, youth workers and museum staff to develop new approaches to supporting young people’s engagement with museums.

It built on Children in Scotland’s learning from our Heritage Hunters project (click here to learn more).

Click here for more information about Children in Scotland

Living Museums Project Final Report

The end of project report highlights successes and how to maintain the momentum

Click here to download

Open door policy

Blog: Chris Ross on the potential for the museums sector to share its value with a young audience

Click here to read

Living Museums

Working in partnership with the museums sector to engage young people

Click to visit the project page

Participation and engagement guidelines

Refreshed guidance, putting young people at the heart of engagement work

Click here for more

Our Manifesto for 2022-26

Our Manifesto is backed by organisations from across the children's sector

Click here for more

Evidence bank

A unique resource which directly captures the views of children and young people

Click to visit the website

Challenges of mental health and lockdown explored in new Perth Living Museums exhibition

6 September 2021

A new exhibition from young people involved in our Living Museums participation project has opened at Perth Museum.

Members of the Perth project group marked the launch of Our Lockdown Journey: Facing the Unknown through Creativity last Wednesday evening (1 September).

As part of Living Museums, which examines how to make museums and heritage sites more relevant and accessible to young people, the group chose to focus on the theme of young people's mental health during lockdown.

The exhibition has been created in the style of a young person’s bedroom, displaying items that supported the mental health of group members during the pandemic and reflecting a space where they’d spent the vast majority of their time over the past year.

A common space

The bedroom was described by one of the young people involved as “our hub”, and they stressed that “it was really good to portray what that environment was like.”

Members of the group had identified that museums could be overwhelming spaces, and accessibility was a key consideration throughout the project and the launch event.

In response to this, a sensory space in the museum, co-produced by the young people and Perth Museums, is in the process of being created.

Project group member Maden made a speech at the start of the event, emphasising how the group have become close friends and that being involved in the project has had a big impact on them as they realized that people have experienced common challenges.

Group member Billy, who was attracted to the project because he wanted young people to get more involved in museums said: “Initially what got me involved was pizza, but over time I got interested.”

Discussing the project, group members Becky and Vicky said they felt like young people weren’t the target audience for museums. Stigma should be removed and mental health discussed more, they said: “Museums have a power with engaging people, not only with the past but also with current events.”

Accessibility vs aesthetics

Jordan Irvine, Senior Officer, Communities and Learning, at Culture Perth & Kinross was open about the fact that museums struggle to engage with young people aged 14 – 26, and that they should be more proactive in working with them to shape exhibits.

He said he felt that accessibility is often overlooked for aesthetics, but museums want and need to overcome this. “If museums aren’t accessible for every body, what is the point in them?” he asked.

Reflecting on the launch, other museum staff were impressed by how the method of engaging young people had been used but recognized that this could take time.

Comments from staff about the exhibition included, “[it was] very creative and very real", and that it was "cool". One staff member said that they'd felt “challenged” by it because it raised issues about the accessibility of their heritage services: “why has no body thought about this before?”

Our Lockdown Journey: Facing the Unknown through Creativity is on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery until 31st October 2021. Admission is free.  

Click here to find out more about Perth Museum

About Living Museums

The project looks at how the museum sector can appeal to young people aged 14 - 21

Click here for more

Our approach to participation

An advisory group of children and young people help shape our aims and work

Click here for more

Participation through the pandemic

This research project aims to gain greater understanding of engagement with children over the past 18 months

Click here for more

Our project work

We run a wide range of projects aimed at achieving our vision for children

Click here for more

Young people celebrate launch of Living Museums Stirling exhibition on theme of protest

20 August 2021

Young people taking part in our culture and heritage participation project Living Museums celebrated the opening of a new exhibition showcasing their work this week.

On Tuesday evening, the group were joined by guests at a special opening of Generation Change: Young People’s Participation in Protest, at the Battle of Bannockburn Experience in Stirling.

The show marked the culmination of nine months’ work on the project, in which the young people explored contemporary issues and recent protests.

The exhibition showcased their creative responses to the Black Lives Matters movement, climate change, women’s safety and the Palestine-Israel conflict, reflecting their hopes that museums can in future feature more contemporary exhibits and themes relevant to young people. (See images on this page for some examples of the work). 

Visitors to the exhibition on the opening night said it presented “themes that were relevant to all of us” in a “fresh” and “modern way”, and praised the young people who produced the work as “trailblazers”.

One visitor said: “I’ve never thought of museums like this before.”

Emily, who is part of the Stirling group, said: “Going forward I really hope that the exhibition shows people within the heritage sector that it is alright to do something outside of your usual box and confront issues head on. I hope that NTS take what we have done and use it as a first step to making their sites more accessible to, and reflective of, young people.”

Group member Joanne added:The fact that we have been able to create such a powerful  and successful exhibition in times like these makes it all even more special.”

Other young people involved said “it was nice…to see my issues displayed”, that they were “happy I got stuff on the walls” and that seeing the show had made them feel "pretty hyped!”

Chris Ross, Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer at Children in Scotland and the Living Museums project lead, said:

“The young people in our Living Museums Stirling group have been looking forward to showing their work to the public and we are very pleased with the response to the exhibition launch.

“The group’s interest in vital current issues such as climate change reflect their own priorities but the opening night proves the topics they chose are also important to a wider audience, who enjoyed the creative, provocative and courageous approach the young people took.

“We’re grateful to the Battle of Bannockburn Experience for hosting the exhibition. We hope that the themes explored in this and through our other Living Museums project work will contribute to better understanding in the museums sector about the issues that are really relevant to young people and what changes to the sector will make them feel more included.”

The exhibition runs at the Battle of Bannockburn Experience until 31 August.

Click here to find out more about the project

Click here for more about the Battle of Bannockburn Experience


Living Museums

Our participation project examines how young people can be more involved in culture and heritage

Click to find out more

Blast from the past: Young people learn to connect heritage, modernity and personal identity

6 November 2020

A new report from Children in Scotland’s Heritage Hunters project shows how it has helped connect children and young people with the past, emphasising the significance to modern life and personal identity. But the end of project report also reveals a gap in engaging teenagers and young adults with museums and galleries.

The children and young people-led project, Heritage Hunters, took place in 2019 and was built on the foundations of Article 31 of the UNCRC which states that children have the right to freely participate in cultural life and the arts.

It brought together 140 children across six projects to explore areas such as family and friends, spaces and environment, play, hobbies and technology, and how they have been influenced by heritage.

Through the project young people identified the personal connection with heritage, recognising its uniqueness and differing interpretations based on individual lives and experiences. Many also spoke about the strong link between heritage and personal identity.

Learning was demonstrated with a range of outputs, from a museum exhibition to the creation of a children’s book.

However, the project has also highlighted a gap in engagement, with young people revealing that they are less likely to get involved with heritage opportunities or visit museums.

This finding has led to the launch of Children in Scotland's Living Museums project, designed to improve access to museums for young people and share their experiences.

Jane Miller, Children in Scotland's Policy and Participation Officer, who worked on the Heritage Hunters project, said:

“During the Heritage Hunter’s project we heard from young people about the importance of being able to define their own understanding of heritage.

"The project has been a springboard for the Living Museums project which supports young people to re-frame, challenge and evolve our understandings of heritage"

“Responding to the highlighted gap in engaging with teenagers and older young people in the heritage sector, ensuring museums feel  like representative and inclusive places will play an important part.”

The Living Museums project launched in July 2020 with the Make A Change, Make History campaign, calling for action from the museum and heritage sector. Phase 2 of the project will bring together museum partners with youth settings to co-design three projects to encourage more young people to access and engage with museums.

Click here to read Heritage is Something That Defines You, the Heritage Hunters End of Project report 

End of project report

Read our Heritage Hunters report 'Heritage is Something That Defines You'

Click to download the report

Heritage Hunters project

The Lottery Funded project designed to connect children and young people with the heritage sector

Click to find out more

Living Museums project

Exploring how the museum sector can engage and appeal to young people

Click to find out more

Living Museums Blog

"We want a space where conversation and reflection is actively encouraged"

Click to read the blog

Living Museums blog

Unlocking opportunity: exploring new ways to create employment in the art world

Click to read the blog

Our projects

We undertake a diverse body of work that support our organisational aims and values

Click to find out more

Young people to lead new Living Museums project

2 July 2020

A group of 14 to 21-year-olds will help shape how museums engage with young people as part of Living Museums, launched today.

Children in Scotland is recruiting a group of 10-15 young people to get involved in the new participation project.

Living Museums aims to improve access to museums for young people and share their perspectives on important experiences, including the impact of Covid-19.

Policy and Participation Officer Jane Miller, who is managing the project, said:

“Through our previous Heritage Hunters project we discovered that young people are less likely to get involved in or visit museums.

“Recent events have shown us the importance of being able to reflect on our own understandings and perceptions of culture and heritage.

“Young people are important for helping us to re-frame, challenge and evolve our understanding.

“Living Museums will look at the barriers that young people experience when accessing museums and explore what things could help make things better, encouraging more young people to get involved."

Young people’s rights and the importance of communicating their stories will be at the heart of the project work.

“Young people have the right to have their voice heard and taken into consideration,” Jane added.

“We will be looking at creating new content and capturing the experiences of young people’s during the pandemic and exploring key themes that have been highlighted.

“We will work together to think of a way of collating and sharing these experiences using digital tools.”

Living Museums will also be an opportunity to explore how museums can reflect issues that are important to young people in 2020 and share their lived experiences with new audiences.

Applying to take part is straightforward – young people who'd like to be involved simply need to complete a consent form and answer a few questions.

Click here to download an information sheet about how to get involved today

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For more information on the Living Museums project, email Jane at


Living Museums recruitment film

In this short film Jane Miller explains the project and how to get involved

Click to watch the film

The Living Museums project explained

Find out more about the project's aims and background

Click to visit the project page

Information Sheet

Any questions? Download an information sheet about the project and how to take part

Click to download

Consent Form

Young people interested in taking part will need to download and complete a consent form

Click to download