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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Please can I see the Fossil Lady?

By Celine West, on 19 August 2015

This is a guest blog written by Alison South, volunteer for UCL Museums.

The dayroom on Ward 12 at UCH (University College Hospital) is bright and spacious with views west along the busy Euston Road. Here patients at the Teenage Cancer Trust Unit relax with their families and friends, putting aside illness, treatments, sickness and drugs for a while, chatting or enjoying a game or other activity. Over the last year I’ve become a regular visitor, bringing with me a bag of museum objects from the Touching Heritage handling collection at UCL Museums.

I vary my choice of 8-10 objects each week, but always include some fossils and rocks from the Geology collections, natural history specimens and Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Some on the ward refer to me as the ‘fossil lady’ or the ‘museum lady’ – I prefer to think of myself as a sort of therapeutic ‘bag lady’ holding tight my precious possessions. (more…)

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 (more…)

Volunteer call out for Touching Heritage project

By Betsy Lewis-Holmes, on 27 March 2013

Object Handling in the community

Object Handling in the community

If you are someone who is passionate about heritage, interested in health and wellbeing, and keen to volunteer in an innovative heritage-in-health project – we want to hear from you!

UCL Museums and Public Engagement is looking for a group of volunteers to take part in the Touching Heritage project, supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The programme aims to widen participation in cultural activities by taking museum objects out to healthcare communities that would otherwise be excluded from museum activities. One-to-one and group sessions led by facilitators will focus on the cultural, social and natural diversity of the objects in relation to participants’ own health and wellbeing. The experience will be enhanced by touching and handling objects traditionally associated with health and wellbeing, and by discussing how the objects feel, what they are made of or whether they resonate in other ways with participants. (more…)

Can museums make you healthy?

By Linda Thomson, on 10 March 2011

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…)