Case studies: museums, health and wellbeing

These case studies were originally compiled by the National Alliance for Museums, Health & Wellbeing – which has since merged with the National Alliance for Arts, Health & Wellbeing to become the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance.

The following projects are listed alphabetically by name of project.

Organisation: Museum of Gloucester, Gloucester Life Museum, Museum in the Park (Stroud)

Project title: Art Psychotherapy Groups

Description: 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Gloucestershire uses museums in group Art Psychotherapy sessions for people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties. According to Art Psychotherapist Ali Coles: ‘We want Group participants to feel valued, and connected with the world outside mental health services. We use the museum objects and environments to help Group members in their process of self-exploration, and the setting encourages people to express themselves through art-making’. Service User Steph Davis feels that Art Psychotherapy in a museum setting ‘enables you to see things from a different perspective’, giving ‘a new insight into your experiences and thoughts and feelings’.

Audience: Adult Mental Health Service Users

Project partners: Partnership between 2gether NHS Foundation Trust and museums in Gloucestershire. Original pilot Group supported by Gloucestershire CCG (funded through the Arts Council England Cultural Commissioning Programme).

Organisation: Pallant House Gallery

Project Title: Community Programme

Description: Pallant House Gallery’s pioneering Community Programme provides people with disabilities, health issues and those who are isolated with meaningful and long-term opportunities to increase their confidence and improve their health through their interest in art. (As seen in

Audience: Various

Partners/Funders: (Funder for the whole gallery) Heritage Lottery Fund

Project Title: Outside In

Description: Founded by Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, in 2006 (and still based at the Gallery), Outside In provides a platform for artists who see themselves as facing barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation. The goal of the project is to create a fairer art world which rejects traditional values and institutional judgements about whose work can and should be displayed. (As seen in

Audience: Artists facing barriers to the art world

Partners/Funders: (Funders) Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, Partners (Various, including Royal Academy of Arts, Compton Verney, Project Ability and Barrington Farm).

Organisation: Health + Culture

Project Title: +Culture Shots

Description: +Culture Shots is a programme run by museums and galleries. This year we there were over 60 ‘drop-in’ sessions across eight Manchester hospitals including: University Dental Hospital of Manchester, Trafford General Hospital, Altrincham General Hospital, Stretford Memorial Hospital, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. From museum collections, music, printing and the science of haptic technology, these unique sessions were designed to give you the chance to discover how culture can enhance your own life, your professional practice, and your patients health and wellbeing.

Audience: Various

Organisation: Beamish Museum

Project Title: Health and wellbeing activities 

Description: Beamish’s programme of activities to support health and wellbeing has been commended by the Royal Society for Public Health for its excellent and innovative contribution to arts and health practice. The aim is to provide everyone, regardless of different ages, health needs and abilities, with opportunities to enjoy the museum, to take part in traditional activities , to learn new skills and improve self-confidence and to thoroughly enjoy the company of others. (As seen in

Audience: All, particularly older people, dementia

Partners: Beamish has been working with a range of partners on the future plans including Alzheimer’s Society, Helen McArdle Care and local NHS service providers.
The Marsden Road homes are owned by Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association (DAMHA) which is working with Beamish on the project. Beamish is speaking to residents and other community groups to gather their memories of the 1950s as part of the exciting project. (As seen in

Organisation: Salford Community Centre

Project Title: Homing in

Description: Young people were inspired by the theme of Ordsall Hall as a home to explore their own lives and homes in Salford. Throughout the project the young people worked with a professional photographer, developing their technical skills to take the images showcased in the exhibition. The group spent time working with museum and carers staff to plan their exhibition and its publicity, to write their image labels and share their personal stories. During the project, the young people also shared and reflected on their own experiences and those of older carers. Within the exhibition, visitors can hear some young adult and adult carers speaking about their personal situations and experiences of accessing support as a carer. The resulting exhibition reflected a real celebration of the young people and the valuable contribution they make to their families and city. (As seen in

Audience: Young Carers

Partners/Funders: (Partner) Salford Young Carers, (Funder) Friends of Salford Museums’ Association, (Support) Gaddum Centre, Carers Trust, Ordsall Hall

Organisation: National Museums Liverpool

Project Title: House of Memories 

Description: House of Memories is an award-winning training programme, which targets the carers of people living with dementia. It provides participants with information about dementia and equips them with the practical skills and knowledge to facilitate a positive quality of life experience for people living with dementia. House of Memories offers dementia awareness training for professionals, as well as buddy days for families, friends and volunteer carers. There are also a number of memory resources, activities and events. (As seen in  Section 7 of the 2017 report The Economic and Social Contribution of National Museums Liverpool assesses the value of this and other wellbeing-oriented projects in economic terms.

Audience: Carers of people with dementia, dementia

Partners/Funders: (Funders)-Department of Health, Liverpool Primary Care Trust’s dallas project (delivering assisted living lifestyles at scale), More Independent (through the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency), Liverpool City Council, Ravensdale Trust, Cecil Pilkington Charitable Trust, Hemby Charitable Trust, Rimmer Memorial Charitable Trust , Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, the Mitchell Group, Financial Planning Corporation, Barnett Waddingham, Austin & Hope Pilkington Trust, Connecting Generations

Organisation: IWM North and Manchester Museum

Project Title: Inspiring Futures: Volunteering for Wellbeing – 2017 report on the wellbeing benefits of a project that engaged community members as volunteers across a number of Manchester heritage sites.

Audience: Participants from Greater Manchester aged 18-25 and 50 plus, and armed forces veterans, in particular those who were long term unemployed or facing low-level mental wellbeing challenges and/or social isolation. You can also find an animation about the project evaluation results here.

Partners/Funders: (Funder) Heritage Lottery Fund, (Partners) Museum of Science and Industry, People’s History Museum, National Trust: Dunham Massey, Manchester City Galleries, Ordsall Hall, Manchester Jewish Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, National Football Museum

Organisation: Kirklees Museums & Galleries

Project Title: Is Volunteering Good for Your Health?

Description: Kirklees Museums and Galleries had plenty of anecdotal evidence that their volunteer programme had a positive impact on people’s lives – but no formal data or robust evidence. As part of an Arts Council England funded project called ‘Sustainable Collections’, they had the opportunity to commission external evaluators to assess the health and wellbeing impacts of their Volunteer programme. The Audience Agency developed an evaluation framework, which focused on the 5 Ways to Wellbeing . The results (see reports below) have provided some important data regarding the health and wellbeing benefits of volunteering. The study also revealed some powerful personal stories from the Volunteers and identified some unique attributes of volunteering in a heritage/cultural setting.

Year One Report

Year Two Report

Volunteer Stories Short Film

Partners/Funders: Delivered as part of the ‘Sustainable Collections’ project funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Programme.

Organisation: NHS, Horniman Museum and Gardens, Tate, & Tate Britain, The Cinema Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Project Title: Journeys of Appreciation

Description: An innovative multi-partnership between various NHS Trust, Galleries and Museums in London, that would encompass monthly visits with bespoke and inclusive facilitated workshops provided by the partner museums and galleries over four years to older adults with mental health problems and dementia. (As seen in “The case study for Outreach Europe Project 2015-The Journeys of Appreciation Programme” report, accessed here:

Audience: Older adults with mental health problems, dementia

Partners/Funders: (Funder) Maudsley Charity, (Partners) Maudsley Hospital, Ladywell Unit, Lewisham Hospital, and Bethlem Royal Hospital, in South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Horniman Museum and Gardens, Tate, Modern & Tate Britain, The Cinema Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Organisation: Royal Albert & Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Project Title: Once a Warrior

Description: Current and former servicemen and women – some with histories of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – found parallels between their own military experiences and Native American warrior societies. The group responded in words and art to “Warriors of the Plains”, a British Museum exhibition about honour and ritual in 19th-century North America. A digital display reflecting the views of West Country warriors of today was displayed in the exhibition, alongside the art inspired by the project, Once a Warrior. Compiled from individual interviews and the group’s artwork in 2012, the digital film is also online, including responses from the public. Once a Warrior served as a bridge for better understanding of the personal codes that have guided combat across centuries, continents and cultures. (As seen in

Audience: PTSD, war veterans

Partners/Funders: (Funder) Arts Council England, (Partner) Aftermath PTSD

Project Title: Living Each Season

Description: RAMM is working to become more dementia-friendly, both for the general public and in its services for targeted groups. Museums offer a safe, fun and yet stimulating place for people at all stages of life. Objects can spark memories and conversations which reinforce the personal identity of people with dementia for themselves and those around them. RAMM’s Living Each Season offers a combination of object-handling sessions, creative activities and gallery tours inspired by groudbreaking methodology from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. (As seen in

Access the leaflet for upcoming sessions here.

Audience: Dementia

Organisation: Glasgow Museums

Project Title: Projects & Special Programmes

Description: Glasgow Museums Learning and Access team work with a range of groups and partnership organisation to deliver special projects and programmes. These broadly tend to have at least one of the following aims:

  • To find out more about the needs and interests of our visitors, which in turn can help us shape future services
  • To work with community groups and organisations, especially those who do not normally visit our museums
  • To reduce barriers to accessing the museum
  • To explore new and interesting ways to interpret our collections

(As seen in

Audience: All, particularly older people

Partners/Funders: Various

Organisation:  Dulwich Picture Gallery

Project Title: Ways to Wellbeing Youth Creative Project

Description: This 7-week project, over February-March 2018 at Dulwich Picture Gallery, saw 10 young volunteers co-create 5 short films and co-produce a workshop for a Gallery Late. They learned about the collections and history of the Gallery, were introduced to the “5 Ways To Wellbeing” and mindfulness techniques, experienced a wellbeing-themed creative art activity (run in collaboration with the Recovery College of the South London and Maudsley, NHS Foundation Trust, SlaM), and were inspired by these experiences to create their films and co-produce their own workshop. They worked collaboratively with Dulwich Picture Gallery staff from different departments, as well as an external arts facilitator, artist and media company. The volunteers co-created resources that will be promoted in a variety of ways by Dulwich Picture Gallery and partners like the SLaM Recovery College, in the aim of encouraging young people to use museum and gallery spaces and collections as inspiration for activities to improve mental health and wellbeing. In addition, learning from this pilot collaborative project will be embedded into future wellbeing-themed workshops for these and other audiences, and these volunteer roles will be continued and enhanced following participant feedback. This film documents the aims and process of the project here. You will find the films the young people created here.

Audience: Youth Creativity and Wellbeing Project volunteers, aged 18-25

Partners/Funders: Partners – Vanessa Weibel (project facilitator), ACAP Media (digital partners for filming and post-production), Nikki Gardham (artist/facilitator for co-production of the Gallery Late workshop), South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s Recovery College

Organisation: The Cinema Museum

Project Title: Wellbeing activities

Description: A variety of activities/projects to actively engage the public in thinking an improving their wellbeing. The Cinema Museum follows the five ways of wellbeing idea to Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give.

Audience: All

Partners/Funders: Local partners in Lambeth and Southwark

Organisation: Kirklees Museums & Galleries

Project Title: Wellbeing Stories

Description: Kirklees Museums and Galleries commissioned a short film Wellbeing Stories (3mins 30secs) which highlights the unique role that Kirklees Museums and Galleries can play in supporting local people to manage their own health and wellbeing. Examples showcased in the film include Mindfulness sessions using the collections as inspiration and the ‘Museum in a Box’ programme which provides multi-sensory resources to trigger memories and encourage conversations. This important advocacy tool also demonstrates to decision makers and stakeholders how a high quality volunteer programme can improve confidence and provide opportunities for people to connect.

Partners/Funders: Delivered as part of the ‘Sustainable Collections’ project funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Programme