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  • Can museums improve your health and wellbeing?

    By Jack Ashby, on 23 May 2013

    Patients at University College Hospital enjoying an object handling session

    Patients at University College Hospital enjoying an object handling session

    For several years a team of researchers in UCL Museums have been investigating the role of touch and object handling in health and wellbeing. A three year research project, Heritage in Hospitals, showed that museum object handling had significant benefits on patients’ wellbeing by improving mental and physical functioning, providing a positive experience during the hospital stay, and improving patient-doctor/carer communication.

    Taking it forward they are investigating the therapeutic value of handling museum objects. They’ve posted an article over on the London Museums Group blog. It begins…

    Can museums improve your health and wellbeing?

    This is a question we have been tackling here at UCL Museums. We’ve been interested in museums’ role in health and wellbeing for a while, so when we were awarded a 3-year research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council we set about trying to answering the question: what is the therapeutic value of handling museum objects? We focused this research around hospitals and care homes, as traditionally museums have not worked particularly closely with these organisations.

    Approach

    Our approach has been to work in partnership with a range of collaborators from academics, museum curators, clinicians, hospital patients, care homes residents and their families and carers, applying rigorous methods for assessing the impact of museum encounters on health and wellbeing. We ran over 300 one-one and group object handling sessions in hospitals and care homes and acquired lots of data during the process. Using standardised clinical measures for quality of life, psychological and subjective wellbeing, alongside qualitative analysis of conversations from the handling sessions, we acquired a detailed and nuanced view of the discrete ways in which museums impact individual health and wellbeing.

    You can read the whole thing on the London Museums Group blog.

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