As part of Creativity and Wellbeing Week (10-16th June), we asked for a guest post from Adam Murray, Learning and Access Officer at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. He received a bursary from us at South West Museum Development, along with four other museums, to attend the ‘Why Museums Matter’ symposium at the Holburne Museum.

Attending the symposium at the Holburne Museum, I was inspired by the ‘Pathways to Wellbeing’ programme and really struck by the personal stories from some of the participants.

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is currently undergoing a 2 million redevelopment and as part of our learning and engagement policy we will be looking to ‘reinforce the belief that the collections belong to North Devon and to promote a feeling of ownership’ when we reopen.

Before we closed for redevelopment we piloted a short course with Devon Recovery,  part of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. Working with the participants we realised that the museum building itself held just as much interest to the group as the collections. Built by William Thorne in 1872, the prominent building has a long history of functions including family home, athenaeum, local library and museum.

Interestingly at  the symposium the participants in ‘Pathways to Wellbeing’ commented on how taking part  changed their attitude towards the building itself. The preconception that the Holburne held an environment that was alien or ‘not for them’ was transformed by their involvement in the programme and interaction with museum staff.

This struck a chord with what we had experienced with our pilot scheme and has led me to consider using not only our building but the surrounding square and garden as a source for a new ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’ course.

As mentioned on the day, no project focused on health and wellbeing is going to be a walk in the park. However when we are talking about using our organisations as a place to learn about community and each other I think the idea of using the building and surrounding areas could give a greater sense of place and identity.

Inspired by the symposium and looking forward to our programme we are in discussion with Devon Recovery to use the building’s architecture, gardens river location and the square’s social history to interpret our collections and give the participants an opportunity to engage and share their story.

For more information on how you can develop Creativity and Wellbeing in your museum, contact our Sustainable Volunteering Officer, Eleanor Moore