National Museums and Wellbeing Week

As it is National Museums and Wellbeing Week, I thought it might be an appropriate opportunity to celebrate our project "Bethlem's Museum of the Mind" which was awarded £550,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013.

Our new museum is situated at the heart of Bethlem Royal Hospital (the UK’s oldest hospital specialising in mental health care, founded in 1247), and shares its home in the hospital’s former Administration Building with its partner organisation, the Bethlem Gallery. Bethlem Royal Hospital continues to provide in-patient and out-patient mental health services as part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Together, Bethlem Museum of the Mind and the Bethlem Gallery have created a welcoming space which enhances the hospital environment and is open free of charge to service users and their family and friends, staff and the wider community. Over 13,000 people have visited the museum in the past 12 months.

The museum’s business plan references the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ and seeks to support them as follows:

  • Provide an opportunity for people to connect within a non-commercial social space, reducing isolation
  • Help people to be active by encouraging visitors to explore the diverse Bethlem site and acting as a meeting point for local walking groups
  • Give people reason to take notice by changing the art and objects on display so that there are always new things to see and discover
  • Encourage people to keep learning through a range of activities from historical talks to creative art sessions
  • Offer people ways to give something back – whether through volunteering or contributing their own content to the permanent exhibition

You can find out more about our work at:

There is some great work going on in the sector around museums and wellbeing - how about we use this week to share what we have all been doing?

Submitted by rebecca.jenkin… (not verified) on Mon, 02/29/2016 - 11:53


Thanks for sharing your project and the fantastic work you do Victoria!

We agree that this week is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the work Heritage Lottery Funded projects do to support and promote health and wellbeing through heritage. You might also want to share any project ideas you would like some advice on, or ask Victoria any questions you have about Bethlem Museum of the Mind and the work they do?

Whatever it is - just get in touch!

Submitted by Amy Freeborn (not verified) on Mon, 02/29/2016 - 12:12


For those who might not yet have embarked on wellbeing activities, let me share some further information with you -

Want to improve your wellbeing?

Connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, give: the most up to date research [1] shows us that building these actions into our daily lives is great for improving our wellbeing.

Want to get started? 

Taking part in heritage is a great start!  

A recent Scottish intergenerational project - led by MECOPP: ‘Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons’ - shows us how.

Based in Edinburgh, MECOPP supports Black and Minority Ethnic carers to achieve positive outcomes based on improved physical and emotional wellbeing, better financial health, feeling more involved in local community life and a better caring/life balance.

This oral history project has a strong wellbeing focus and involved gathering histories from minority communities in Scotland, including Chinese and South Asian elders. These stories and artefacts were then shared in a beautiful and very popular public exhibition at the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. This exhibition ran as part of “Luminate: Scotland’s creative ageing festival” from last October until January 2016 as part of the Museum of Edinburgh programme.  Over 20,000 visitors saw it and many shared comments on how powerful it had been:

“Well done. So many interesting stories covering different generations. I identified with many of the stories and the precious items on display. Families are the same, regardless of where they come from – the exhibition is a wonderful way to share that heritage!”

Project participants shared their comments:

“The oral history project allowed time for reflection and I have realised that reflection is a wonderful thing. The questions I was asked in my interview triggered certain feelings/memories and emotions. Digging up old memories and sharing them was surprising but equally exciting. The thing, which struck me most when reading the storyboards was, we each share a connection and have gone through certain experiences which have made us who we are.’’

“I think it (the participation experience) was perfect. I am happy people know my story – I have become more popular! You should do more projects like this. My granddaughter is so happy and proud about us both and that makes me very happy.”

More about the ‘Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons’ project

At HLF we know that taking part in heritage projects is enjoyable, builds communities, and contributes to personal wellbeing. We’re also committed to making sure heritage contributes to further improved wellbeing within communities, including contributing to positive mental health. More to follow on our website later this year.

Find out how to get started on your own heritage project

[1] O’Donnell,G et al (2014) Wellbeing and Policy.London :Legatum Institute

Submitted by emma-jane@meco… (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2016 - 12:06


My name is Emma-Jane Harrington and I am the Development Officer responsible for delivering MECOPP's ‘Mothers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons’ oral history project. It was a very successful project and a real joy to be involved in!

During the project we worked with 22 participants from minority communities are from this work we:

Carried out 22 individual oral history interviews
Created 11 exhibition storyboards
Created 13 exhibition object boards
Obtained the use of 4 original personal artefacts for display at the Museum of Edinburgh
Gathered 12.5 hours of audio interviews
Received 156 old family photographs
Our project photographer took approx. 200 photos of participants and artefacts
Created 10 audio clips of participant interviews
Created a book soon to be published. 

A selection of audio clips from some of the interviews are now on our website. You can listen to them on our resources page:

If you have any questions or would like any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Submitted by (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2016 - 14:52


Listening to Emma Cook talk about Memories in the Communities: stories of my life, Cambridgshire Museums project.  Excellent work in Cambridgshire - memory boxes, making art, photography and film.  In their own words more compelling than my description

Submitted by sarah.neville@… (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2016 - 18:02


Picking up the themes of Mothers & Daughters, Fathers & Sons and mental wellbeing can I draw your attention to the current excellent exhibitions at the Robert Capa Contemporary Exhibition Center in Budapest: Attachments  and Meaning


Submitted by (not verified) on Fri, 03/04/2016 - 17:17


Thanks for sharing all these examples – inspiring! I’m going to try and get a sneaky post in before the end of the week…

We are really interested in the contribution museums can make to well-being here at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and have been involved in a number of partnership projects and programmes aiming to support well-being for different groups.

A couple of years ago we collaborated with our local NHS trust, Addenbrookes, to create a Wellbeing Journal, drawing on our experience of working with various patient groups at the hospital as part of an outreach programme. You can read about the journal here:

Recently, we’ve developed this relationship with Addenbrookes in a new direction, piloting a new initiative bring museum objects and images to use as a starting point for conversations with patients at the new dialysis centre. We’ve had positive feedback and are looking forward to evaluating with the hospital team and thinking about how we develop the project in future.

This project, and many of our other well-being initiatives, involve working with our partners across the University of Cambridge Museums (including HLF-supported Zoology Museum, Polar Museum, Kettle’s Yard and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) to offer participants a rich, varied experience. I got to see this first hand at the dialysis unit – for example those less excited by an Impressionist painting might be fascinated by photographs of Polar explorations. Working together also helps us share expertise and practice across the museums – for example Portals to the World, our programme for people with a dementia diagnosis and their care partners began at the Fitzwilliam but now involves input from other University of Cambridge Museums, with the Polar even beginning to run their own course (you can read about Polar Portals here:, and the general programme here: )

I could go on but it’s now hometime on Friday – but do get in touch if you are interested to know more – I’m on