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.


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:

Find out more about the museums’ programmes:

Project News: Stroke – Stories of Self through Art and Science

Medical Humanities Lab member and CHSTM research fellow Dr Stephanie Snow, working in collaboration with the Stroke Association and visual artist Elisa Artesero, has been curating a pop-up exhibition at Manchester Museum to commemorate World Stroke Day on 29 October 2015. The exhibition featured creative work produced by a group of stroke survivors, based on their experiences of adapting to life after stroke and inspired by Manchester Museum’s extensive mask collection.

The exhibition, titled Stroke: Stories of the self through art and science, is running as part of the Manchester Science Festival. It is the first output of a larger project that brings together stroke survivors, patient groups, artists, clinicians, scientists, researchers and students from across the University and beyond in order to explore the life-changing aspects of stroke.

Photograph of Nancy Rothwell with stroke survivors at the exhibition

University of Manchester President and Vice Chancellor Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell visiting the exhibition

Stephanie’s collaboration with the Stroke Association and stroke survivors is ongoing and will result in a major exhibition of creative work and engagement events at the 2016 Manchester European City of Science festival.

Here is a short YouTube film about the workshops:

Further information about the event


Project News: Children and War

We’re happy to pass along some news coverage, including a short film, of a project involving Medical Humanities Lab member Professor Rachel Calam (Psychology).

Sky News have covered the project, showing how children who have come to Manchester talk about their experience of war in Syria and the psychological changes that come as a result of experiencing conflict.

A child's drawing dealing with the experience of war in Syria

A child’s drawing dealing with the experience of war in Syria

About the project and its findings

Parental support and family cohesion is protective against mental health problems in children in situations of armed conflict and following displacement by war. Aala El-Khani, Rachel Calam, Kim Cartwright and the Parenting and Families Research Group at The University of Manchester are working to understand the challenges parents and caregivers face and the best ways of providing information and psychological support through displacement and resettlement.

The latest media coverage exemplifies the experiences that children carry with them from conflict zone to resettlement in a place of safety.

Find out more about the Parenting and Families Research Group and its work