ICCHS and Beamish Museum projects

ICCHS staff are working with colleagues at Beamish Museum to investigate the impact of the museum’s work with older people in two, separate projects.

Beamish Museum is an open air museum which tells the story of life in the north east of England in at different moments in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. They use buildings moved from across the region to create period settings. The museum’s staff have been working with older audiences for several years. Originally the sessions took place in one of the 19th Century ‘Pit Cottages’ but recently moved into ‘Orchard Cottage’ which is a 1940s set out as a 1940s farm-worker’s cottage. The sessions have also evolved from conventional reminiscence sessions, making use of handling collections and the immersive setting, into broader sessions, involving sensory stimuli and meaningful physical activity. The aim of the sessions is to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Active Ageing & Heritage in Adult Learning

This is a European, service evaluation project funded by Erasmus+ to promote innovation in organisational practices in the field of lifelong learning.Erasmus logo

The project’s primary partners are 5 open air museums: Beamish, Den Gamle By (Denmark), Jamtli (Sweden), Maihaugen (Norway) and Skanzen (Hungary). The museums’ staff have agreed a topic and structure for delivering reminiscence sessions for older people at each venue. The plan is that the reminiscence sessions from all the venues will be broadly comparable.

Maihaugen Museum

Erasmus + project team members at Maihaugen Museum (l-r): Areti Galani, Tanya Wills (Beamish Museum) & Michelle Kindleysides (Beamish Museum)

Alongside the 5 museum partner organisations, 3 university partners were invited to develop and implement a methodology for evaluating the perceived impact of these sessions on the participants and any accompanying carers. The 3 universities are Aarhus (Denmark), Linnaeus University (Sweden) and Newcastle University. The Newcastle University team working on the project is being led by Rhiannon Mason, along with Areti Galani and Bruce Davenport (the project researcher).

By delivering comparable sessions across all the museums, and using a consistent methodology for evaluation, the project aims to generate a large body of data and recommendations for good practice in the area of reminiscence and older people.

Methodological investigations in capturing the impact of museum activities on older men with mental illness

A couple of years ago, Beamish Museum’ Active Ageing Officer, Michelle Kindleysides (an ICCHS alumni), worked in collaboration with Emma Biglands an Occupational Therapist based at Derwent Clinic, Mental Health Services for Older People in County Durham to develop workshops for a group of older men living with a range of mental ill health conditions such as depression and dementia. They developed the content of the workshops to match interests, skills, past experiences and the cognitive level of the participants enabling the men to feel they could contribute, make choices and participate to their occupational potential.

The focus of the sessions was on active participation, tapping into lost practical skills, providing meaningful engagement, and socialisation within the historic spaces of the museum and utilising the social-historical objects within the collection. ‘Jobs’ from around the museum formed the key activities in the sessions, which gave the men an opportunity to contribute to the visitor experience at large.

Anecdotal findings from the pilot, including the participant’s own remarks and the organisers’ observations, suggested that the set of workshops had a positive impact on the men’s subjective sense of wellbeing. However, evaluation methods using questionnaires proved to be intrusive and, potentially, detrimental to the outcomes of the session. So Michelle asked if we would like to get involved in trying to find different ways of evaluating the outcomes of the session.

Areti Galani is leading the Newcastle University project team with Bruce Davenport as the project researcher. The project is exploring possible evaluation methods, so Areti and Bruce worked with Michelle and Emma to develop a set of evaluation techniques that might provide insight into the impact of the workshops whilst remaining unobtrusive during the session.

Orchard Cottage

Planting bulbs in the raised bed outside Orchard Cottage during one of the Men’s Group Sessions

The project has been jointly funded by Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Institute for Social Renewal.

Both projects are ongoing. For further information, please contact Bruce Davenport: bruce.davenport@newcastle.ac.uk



Attendance at the British Society of Gerontology Conference


Andrew in Oxford at the British Society of Gerontology Conference, 2013

Andrew Newman and Anna Goulding gave a paper entitled ‘Engaging with contemporary visual art: Maintaining health and well-being’ to the British Society of Gerontology conference held at Oxford University 11th-13th September 2013.

For more information, see the conference website http://www.ageing.ox.ac.uk/bsg

Research Seminar on Wellbeing tomorrow

Just a reminder, our next ‘work in progress’ seminar will be held fro 1 – 2pm tomorrow (29 May) in Room 1.06 at 18 Windsor Terrace. All are welcome. Below is a description of the session:
‘Wellbeing’ has become one of those terms that has become difficult to avoid, it appears in Government rhetoric, the UK Office for National Statistics is attempting to measure it, it appears in cultural policy documents and drives funding streams for the UK research councils. It has also become associated with notions of the impact of cultural activity.  However, there is no universally accepted definition of the term.
This session will start by exploring the use of wellbeing within cultural policy and how it can be situated within a New Public Management framework. Following this the panel will explore a number of examples of how wellbeing might be understood from recent research projects.
Drawing from ‘Contemporary visual art and identity construction: wellbeing amongst older people’ and their ESRC-funded follow-on project, Andrew Newman and Anna Goulding will talk about how visiting art galleries or participating in arts interventions can impact on older people’s wellbeing.  They will talk about the difficulty in measuring impact and whether quantitative or qualitative approaches capture the process of engagement.  They will also discuss international work seen at the Museum of Modern Art’s Alzheimer’s Summit meeting in April. Drawing on his recent freelance work and the research proposal being developed with Rhiannon Mason & Areti Galani, Bruce Davenport will talk about how different approaches to wellbeing were utilised to meet the needs of those projects.

ICCHS to showcase research at MoMA New York

Andrew Newman and Anna Goulding are heading to the Museum of Modern Art  in New York this month (April) to showcase their research on how older people’s lives can be improved through engagement with contemporary visual art.  They have produced a short film demonstrating a new way of working in art galleries that focuses on creativity. “This is not about reminiscence, it’s about using the imagination to create something new,” said Anna Goulding.  “Art can take us out of our normal lives and enable us to change our thinking, which can have a profound influence on how we relate to the world around us.”

Video link: http://Art Gallery Interventions for People with Dementia from Hugh Sherlock on Vimeo.

The New Dynamics of Ageing programme http://www.newdynamics.group.shef.ac.uk/ funded the research project and a follow-on project involved developing informed arts policy and intervention guidance that could have significant implications for museums and galleries.

Holding Memories featured in February’s Museum Practice


Holding Memories

The aim of this research is to understand the processes by which objects from social history museum collections and in museum settings evoke memories in people with dementia. The project also aims to understand the impact of the museum-led reminiscence for people living with dementia. The project will use this understanding to shape practices (including the use of digital media) in the cultural heritage sector and amongst communities of carers.

This project responds to the wider challenge facing many societies worldwide and particularly in Western Europe; namely, how to best care and support wellbeing for an ageing population with a growing incidence of dementia. It will influence policy, practice and academic knowledge in this area.

Holding Memories is being run collectively by Dr. Rhiannon Mason, Dr. Areti Galani and Dr. Bruce Davenport.

For more information on Holding Memories, please visit:



or if you are a member of the Museums Association, you can access Museum Practice here: