Not so grim up north: how can museums contribute to health and wellbeing?

The Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum are part of a new Arts Council funded research project looking at the impact of engaging in museum activities for individuals’ health and wellbeing. Not So Grim Up North (2015-2018) is a collaboration with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM), working with researchers at University College London (UCL).

The Whitworth and TWAM have been leading creative work in the field of health, culture and wellbeing for many years, with specifically developed arts and heritage programmes in partnership with local healthcare and social care services. Inspired by the collections of art and local history, the programmes offer behind-the-scenes tours and object handling; arts activities; sound recording; creative writing; and photography.

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The Whitworth’s contemporary textiles handling resource

The research will explore how taking part in a museum or art gallery activity can have demonstrable health and wellbeing outcomes, through a longitudinal study using a mix-methods approach – that is, we will be using validated (quantitative) clinical scales alongside qualitative interviews to measure the impact of these activities over 18 months. The project will work with a range of audiences across the two regions, including adults with mental health issues, adults in addiction recovery, stroke rehabilitation patients, and older adults living with dementia; and will also bring together the perspectives of healthcare professionals and cultural professionals to explore the work of partnership. The project will contribute to better understanding the value of museum encounters on health and wellbeing.

Dr Nuala Morse is the Research Associate for the project, based at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester. Nuala’s background crosses human geography, museum studies, participatory theory and the medical humanities, and her work is interested in the distinctive nature of the ‘social work’ of museums professionals; the role of the museum as a space of social care; and the role of culture in (mental health and addictions) recovery work. Nuala’s recent papers can be found here.

You can find out more about the research project here (please note some of these pages are under construction).

If you would like any further information please contact Nuala: Nuala.morse@manchester.ac.uk

Find out more about the museums’ programmes:

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