Why Museums Matter for Mental Health
In April, South West Museum Development awarded bursaries to five South West museums to take part in a one day symposium at the Holburne Museum – Why Museums Matter for Mental Health
Those awarded bursaries hail from a variety of museums. These vary in terms of their size, turnover, collections and interpretive focus, specialist expertise and available capacity for community engagement and wellbeing work.
Alongside Creativity and Wellbeing Week, we will be sharing case studies from each of the attendees, providing their reflections on the Symposium and their museum’s plans for developing wellbeing-related activity with existing and new audiences.
In advance of this, we are pleased to share some initial reflections from the delegates on their experiences:
Laura Spencer, Volunteer at Glenside Hospital Museum
“The symposium was an inspirational, thought-provoking, learning experience and at times surprisingly emotional… [I felt] the important social role our museums have to play in supporting mental health and well-being.”
Adam Murray, Learning and Access Officer at Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon
“As mentioned on the day, no project focused on health and wellbeing is going to be a walk in the park. However… I think the idea of using the building and surrounding areas could give a greater sense of place and identity.”
Diana Walters, Trustee at Totnes Museum
“This was a first step. …[After the symposium I decided to] draft a policy on wellbeing and health, and how we could start small but ensure that it was in our Forward Plan. …It would be great if other smaller museums could maybe get together and pool our enthusiasm and interest. I’d love to hear from anyone.”
Holly Jarrett, Learning Officer at Tiverton Museum
“It was enormously inspiring and everyone left with so many ideas of how to integrate wellbeing outcomes into their work… Wellbeing outcomes came out as a key opportunity for us to run more community programmes. The symposium gave me new ways to consider our approach to this.”
Becky Russell, Community Heritage Officer at Community Access Heritage Centre (CHAC)
“At CHAC we are hoping to secure funding for a large project, and one aspect of this has been inspired by these [Symposium] workshops. I hope to work with an artist or artists, using objects from the museum, to deliver a range of outreach sessions to the local community… [to] inspire, facilitate recollection and enhance learning.”
The Symposium and the Holburne’s Pathways to Wellbeing programme made clear that high quality wellbeing activity will cross departmental boundaries and lead to careful thinking and rethinking about prioritisation, about ‘the how and the why’ of what a museum does to fulfil its mission.
Engaging the previously unengaged is at the heart of this work; well thought-through strategies for communication are needed throughout, to ensure the individuals involved make genuinely worthwhile connections with museums.
South West Museum Development will be working with these museums as they develop and deliver new wellbeing strategies and activities; in particular to understand impact on audience and volunteer diversity, on partnerships, and also, more generally, on museum policies and planning.
Keep an eye on our website for full case studies from the Symposium attendees, which will be shared alongside Creativity and Wellbeing Week.
If your museum wants to share a story or contribute to the discussion, please contact Sustainable Volunteering Officer [email protected]