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UCL wins international awards for innovative work in museums

By Anna E Cornelius, on 18 May 2018

Colour photo of six people standing in a row in front of a glittery wall. The woman in the middle is holding a pink award.

UCL Museums and Collections have won two Museums + Heritage Awards at a glittering ceremony in central London. Regarded as the Oscars of the museums and heritage industry, the awards recognise UCL’s collaborative work to improve the wellbeing of museum visitors and rebuild a giant-size whale skeleton.

The award for the best Educational Initiative went to Museums on Prescription, which found that engaging with museums can have a resoundingly positive impact on people’s wellbeing. Working with partners across South East England and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, researchers at UCL and Canterbury Christ Church University connected lonely older people at risk of social isolation to seven partner museums in central London and Kent.

Colour photo of two older people holding up zoological specimens in the foreground

More than 100 vulnerable older adults took part in Museums on Prescription over three years. The project team used this experience to develop the first social prescription programme for museums in the UK, to support future work around improving social inclusion and psychological wellbeing. The project has also received awards from the Royal Society for Public Health and a Special Commendation from Public Health England.

Helen Chatterjee, Professor of Biology, UCL Biosciences and Principal Investigator for Museums on Prescription said ‘I am really delighted that the museums have been recognised by this prestigious award, which is testament to the inspiring and engaging programmes that they developed for isolated and lonely older adults. We are especially grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for making this research possible, and helping to develop good practice and new policies around social prescribing.’

Colour photo showing two children looking at a woman working on a large whale bone

The Grant Museum’s Whale Weekender event was named the best Project on a Limited Budget.

The Whale Weekender brought together the skeleton of the Museum’s largest specimen: an eight-metre skeleton of a northern bottlenose whale, for the first time in decades. For one weekend in July, more than 800 members of the public helped to clean and reconstruct the skeleton with scientists and museum staff. The Whale Weekender was also Highly Commended in the Collections Trust Awards in 2017.

Tannis Davidson, Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology, said ‘The Whale Weekender was a great opportunity for people to get hands-on with one of the many specimens not on display in the Grant Museum. Working with conservators from Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the University Museum of Zoology Cambridge, our team shared skills and experience with the public to help protect this incredible specimen for the future.’

The Museums + Heritage Awards are judged by a panel of the sector’s leading lights including representatives from the Imperial War Museum, Historic Environment Scotland and the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). The awards ceremony is attended by hundreds of sector professionals who join to celebrate the incredible achievements and groundbreaking projects of the past 12 months. Find out more about the awards here.

Colour photo of partner logosMuseums on Prescription was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (REF:AH/L012987/1) and delivered in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University; museum practitioners from seven museums and museum services (British Museum, Canterbury City Museums & Galleries, Central Saint Martins Museum and Study Collection, Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, The Postal Museum, Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, and UCL Museums); three health and social care trusts and four third sector organisations in central London and Kent.

The Whale Weekender was delivered with conservators from Oxford University Museum of Natural History and University Museum of Zoology Cambridge, an Artist-Educator and a whale evolutionary biologist.

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