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Touching Heritage


A volunteer driven, heritage-in-health initiative


Touching Heritage

Object-handling in the community

Welcome to the Touching Heritage project website. Touching Heritage, funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, is the result of a unique partnership between UCL Museums and Public Engagement and UCLH NHS Foundation Trust. Beginning in August 2012, a team of volunteers have been taking objects from across UCL Museums and Public Engagement to people in hospitals, care homes and other community health settings and facilitating object-handling sessions. The project builds on the findings of an innovative AHRC funded research project conducted by UCL researchers. Details of the research and its findings can be found here.

The purpose of the project is two-fold: to bring heritage objects to people who would otherwise be excluded from participating in cultural activity; and to train and support a team of student and community volunteers to deliver the programme.
The purpose of this website is to serve as documentation of the work we are doing in hospitals and community health settings, and to provide a direct link to our volunteer-led blog detailing experiences of sessions, and of volunteering.

The Touching Heritage project has already successfully started to bridge an important gap between under-used heritage collections and members of the public who would otherwise be excluded from participating in arts and cultural activities. The outcomes of research so far have indicated considerable health and wellbeing benefits for participants of object-handling sessions, and an interesting and novel partnership between heritage collections and healthcare environments.

Transcending language barriers through object-handling with Somali-speaking participants

The object handling sessions incorporate a range of participatory models, interview techniques, community engagement processes, and narrative-based practices, as well as innovative approaches to health and wellbeing assessment. Research interests and focus continues to evolve in the larger project, particularly concerned with the development of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches to health evaluation for participants, and volunteers involved in the program.
One of the primary aims of the Touching Heritage project is to develop a plan for satellite object handling sessions to take museum objects to diverse healthcare locations and environments, and this will see the exponential continuation and development of this ground-breaking arts-in-health initiative.

Finding a novel use for an elephant tooth

If you are an interested volunteer, work in a museum or a hospital, care home or community health service, we want to hear from you about how you could be involved in the development of a similar programme in your place of work. For more information contact our Programme Co-ordinator, Betsy Lewis-Holmes via email: b.lewis-holmes@ucl.ac.uk.