Museums as spaces for well being

Dancing at the Fitzwilliam Museum, a co-produced programme exploring how moving improves wellbeing and helps people to engage with art. Image by KJ Martin,

Geraldine Kendall Adams, Report explores health and wellbeing provision in museums, Museums Association, 18 April 2018

A new report that explores the development of health and wellbeing work in museums and offers a guide to good practice has been launched by the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing (NAMHW).

The Museums as Spaces for Wellbeing report is aimed at both the health and museum sectors. It is designed to provide “the basis for the health sector to strategically embed the role of the museums and the heritage sector at national and local level”, according to a foreword by Duncan Selbie, the chief executive of Public Health England.

The report’s findings are based on a sector-wide survey, as well as consultation with museum professionals and organisations including the Museums Association.

The publication features case studies that show how the sector is responding creatively to health and wellbeing areas such as an ageing population, entrenched health inequalities and green wellbeing.

These include Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Art and Social events programme, which aims to address loneliness and isolation among older people, and the Sensing Culture group at the Beaney’s House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, which is for adults with sight loss.

Other case studies include Birmingham Museum Trust’s Creative Carers programme, which offers a creative outlet to people in a caring role, and Mansfield Museum’s Health and Wellbeing Festival and Feel-Good Friday sessions.

The report also analyses how the museum sector is meeting organisational opportunities and challenges in five areas: new audiences, partnership, evaluation, organisational change and funding.

Its findings show that the evaluation of health and wellbeing provision is an area of concern for museum and heritage professionals, and that some had also faced difficulty navigating or building partnerships with the health sector.

Museums as Spaces for Wellbeing is the second report to be published by the alliance since it formed in 2015.

At the end of this month, the NAMHW is due to merge with the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing to become the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. The new organisation will be a Sector Support Organisation under Arts Council England

The latest edition of Museum Practice explores how museums can promote wellbeing in visitors, staff and volunteers.