For the last three years, an innovative programme of research called ‘Heritage in Hospitals’ has been carried out by UCL Museums & Collections, where museum objects are taken into hospitals and other healthcare settings. Patients are invited to handle and discuss the objects at their bedsides with a researcher, in sessions that typically last around 30 to 40 minutes. Researchers from UCL turn up at the hospital with their boxes of museum objects during afternoon visiting hours and patients are encouraged to select an object and give reasons for why they are attracted to it. Sometimes a participant will select an object on purely visual grounds saying “That one looks interesting” or “I like the colour of this one”. At other times a participant will run their hand over the surface of all of the objects and comment “I like the feel of this one” or “I’ll choose this one because it feels cool”.
Objects include archaeological artefacts e.g. Egyptian amulets, pots and pottery shards, flint hand axes and knives; artworks e.g. copper etching plates and prints from 1950’s Slade School of Art students; geological specimens e.g. agate and malachite minerals, ammonite and micraster fossils; and natural history items e.g. seashells, eggs, horns and teeth. (more…)