Touch and wellbeing

Wellbeing and Object Handling

Heritage in Hospitals

Funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund over the past few years has enabled us to explore the value of touch and museum object handling in various contexts. 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.

Two series of workshops brought together museum professionals, academics and third sector colleagues to share perspectives, ideas and discussions regarding the value of object handling and its role in improving health, wellbeing, education and enjoyment. 

A one year project, ‘Touching Heritage’ recruited and trained volunteers from UCL's student and the local community to conduct object handling sessions for those unable to visit museums due to health or age, such as those in hospitals, care homes or sheltered housing. The project aimed to encourage partnership between museums and healthcare, increase audiences for object handling and to broaden volunteers' skills and experiences.

Discussion over object handling

Heritage in Hospitals

Handling micraster

In 2008, researchers and curators from University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Arts developed a unique programme called ‘Heritage in Hospitals', funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC award number AHG000506/1). The project explored the wellbeing benefits of taking museum objects to patients in acute and chronic wards and older adults in residential care.

Touch + Wellbeing Workshops

During the winter of 2006 and the spring of 2007 UCL Museums & Collections organized a series of workshops investigating touch and value of object handling in museums. Funded by the AHRC, the workshops brought together a diverse range of experts from academic and museum environments, with a view to establishing a network where information relating to the value of object handling can be shared and developed.

In 2011, researchers and curators from University College London (UCL), Newcastle University and Renaissance North West held a series of AHRC-funded workshops considering the evidence for and the evaluation of wellbeing outcomes from heritage-in-health interventions.


The research has led to the output of publications including the book 'Touch in Museums: Policy and practice in object handling' edited by Helen Chatterjee, peer-reviewed journal articles, workshop papers and presentations, the 'Healing Heritage' exhibition brochure and the best practice guide, 'Heritage in Health: A guide to using museum collections in hospitals and other healthcare settings'.

Arts and Humanities Research CouncilSupported by the National Lottery