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The role of museums in social care

Zoe Brown

Over the last few years, Zoe Brown, Outreach Officer, has mused on the idea of creating a museums service for health that would work alongside NHS and social care services. This developing idea led to meeting Dr Juliana Thompson, from Northumbria University in 2019, and subsequently to our vision to create a useful set of resources for health and social care professionals working with older people, which would build confidence and understanding in how to use museums as part of a care practice.

We wanted to cross reference cultural activities and museum resources with clinical and care outcomes. In doing this we aim to help health and social care professionals make the connections between cultural, heritage and art to the health and wellbeing of older people. We created a steering group whose role was to oversee this project. The group was made up of a multi-disciplinary team of health and social care practitioners and academics (occupational therapists, physiotherapists, mental health nurses, social worker, and older people’s nurses), artists, museum outreach staff, and older people.

The ultimate aim of the project is to use museum resources and collections to support quality of life improvements for older people. Our progress so far has led to the development of the Museums Health and Social Care Service (MHSCS) – a set of activities that will support health and social care professionals to use TWAM’s collection to support a range of healthy ageing and rehabilitation needs.

Dr Juliana Thompson

The MHSCS resource is unique, in that it is searchable through the quick reference section identifying clinical and care outcomes. It suggests activities and identifies how these activities could specifically support health and wellbeing, for example: pain management, speech, cognitive stimulation, mental health, social interaction, etc. The clinical and care outcomes have been coded to categories: Physical/Mobility, Social, Cognitive/knowledge/Learning and Mindful/Emotional.

Alongside the resource we are currently developing short films that can be used to support staff leading their own facilitated heritage workshops with patients, service users and clients. We are also developing other training opportunities for health and social care professionals to build confidence in using museums and galleries, together with a set of loans boxes that can be used outside the museum to try out activities.

As well as supporting the existing professionals, we are also working with the up and coming workforce as the resource will be used as part of nurse education at Northumbria University.

We see these resources as a living collection of useful ideas that will be added to and adapted, so keep in touch by looking on the TWAM website and signing up to our mail out for news about new activities, upcoming films, activity boxes and training opportunities.

Above all we hope you have fun, find the resources useful and instructive, and we hope you will let us know how you get on, by feeding back to us through our website.


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