Hands On! began in 1994 as an informal network of a number of European museum directors, interested in promoting children’s museums in Europe.

How it started Hands On! began its work as an informal network in 1994. It consisted of museum directors who wished to promote children’s museums in Europe. After an initial conference in the Netherlands in 1996, an official organization, with an orderly structure, statutes and a board of directors, was born. In March 1998, Hands On! Europe Association of Children Museums was founded in Portugal for the first time as an official non-profit making organization. The organization focused on the circularization of children’s museums on an international level.

In 2014 Hands On! International Association of Children in Museums was born.

How it is today Since then, the European children’s museum scene has led to a large-scale rethinking in many traditional museums. An increasing number of high-quality children’s programs have started to pop-up. Some institutions even created their own in-house children’s museum concentrating on offering children and their families outstanding educational programs. Because of this process, Hands On! decided to open up the organization for all qualitatively valuable programs for children in children’s museums or other museums. This led to a new name of the organization and in 2014, Hands On! International Association of Children in Museums was born.

Founding Members The founding members of Hands On! Europe were: Museu das Criancas (Lisbon, Portugal) Hotel ‘Het Reispaleis’- Wereldmuseum Rotterdam (Rotterdam; Holland), Musee des Enfants / Het Kindermuseum (Brussels, Belgium), Zoom Kindermuseum (Vienna; Austria) and Het Kindermuseum (now Tropenmuseum Junior) (Amsterdam; Holland)

Board of Directors The Board of Directors consists of five members from at least three countries, who are elected at the General Assembly. The General Assembly meets at each Hands On! Conference, or whenever it is convened by the President. The General Assembly can also be convened upon request of the Board of Directors or of one third of the Institutional Members.

In 1996, the first Hands On! Europe conference was held in the Netherlands.