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



Doctoral Training Opportunity for Arts and Cultures Researchers – Publication Skills

PGR Innovation Fund project hosted by the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

Printing Guttenberg style
Printing Guttenberg style

Theme: Publication Skills Workshop – Journals

Date: 1 December 2015, 10.00am – 5.00pm

Venue: Newcastle Mining Institute, Westgate Road, Newcastle City Centre

We are all aware of the increasing need for doctoral researchers to make their work more visible as they develop their scholarly career. A strong record of publications in peer-reviewed journals is essential for the academic job opportunities that many of us will be applying for in the coming years, and is increasingly important for creative practitioners. Yet there is a recognition that many postgraduate researchers feel that the process of getting their work published in an academic journal is perplexing and beyond their reach. This workshop will provide participants with ample opportunity to ask questions of editors and Early Career Researchers in a spirit of trust, and to explore ‘inside’ perspectives on publishing in an informal environment.

The workshop covers topics including: understanding the peer-review process; exploring alternative avenues for the dissemination of research; what being an editor can teach you about publishing your own work and how to approach editors with your ideas for papers. Participants will hear from early career researchers (ECRs) who have already published their doctoral research and from colleagues with experience of editing ‘traditional’ and online journals in our fields.

Programme speakers include:

–      Dr. Kate Hill (Principle Lecturer in the School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln, co-editor of the Museum Histories Journal and former Managing Editor at Museum and Society)

–      Dr. Louise Grisoni (Associate Dean Research and Knowledge Exchange in Oxford Brookes Business School, member of the Editorial Board for Organizational Aesthetics

–    Barbara Dougan (Artist, Curator and Visual Arts Consultant, Editor of engage Journal, the International Journal of Visual Art and Gallery Education)

–      Dr. Ealasaid Munro (Research Associate, University of Glasgow Centre for Cultural Policy Research)

–      Dr. Sarah di Nardi (Research Associate, Durham University Department of Geography)

–      Anthony Schrag (Third Year PhD student with focus on Socially Engaged Art Practice and Conflict, Newcastle University, Department of Fine Art)

Please note that this workshop specifically aims at doctoral students whose research addresses topics related to the broad area of heritage, museum and gallery studies, cultural policy, socially engaged creative arts practice and cognate disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary PhD research that bridges the above fields.

There are limited spaces available, therefore preference will be given to participants whose research addresses these areas. If you would like to attend, please fill in the registration form (copy and paste below is fine) and email to: b.rex@ncl.ac.uk before Wednesday 18th November. These workshops are open to second and third year doctoral students only.



Academic school:

Research Area/Thesis Title:

Part of the programme for the day includes a panel discussion, featuring colleagues with editorial experience. Please submit a question for the panel, based on the theme of publishing in academic journals (approaches, challenges, top tips and so forth). If your application is successful, please indicate if you would be happy to read it to the panel. You will not be restricted to asking one question (far from it!), however we feel it is useful to have a series of questions to help editors prepare their presentations in response to the prior knowledge of the group.


From Washington

Today’s blog post is by ICCHS’s Rhiannon Mason, who has just returned from a trip to Washington, DC.


Last week I was in Washington DC for a few days to attend an interdisciplinary workshop at the Smithsonian Institution. It was organized by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the International Storytelling Center, Jonesborough, Tennessee, which is now headed up by an ICCHS graduate, Kiran Singh Sirah (see Kiransinghsirah.wordpress.com).

The workshop brought together cultural heritage professionals, storytellers, folklorists, artists, educators and not-for-profit organisations with peace-building professionals. The aim of the project is to develop our understanding of how culture can be used to foster intercultural dialogue, understanding and cross-cultural empathy between communities in conflict. The workshop was extremely thought-provoking and stimulating. It was a great opportunity to meet people from other fields which I wouldn’t normally encounter. It also helped me to think through some ideas I have been discussing recently with some colleagues in ICCHS around questions of dialogue and the potential for empathy in museum work. The workshop is the first step in a longer-term project so hopefully it is just the beginning of many future collaborations.

While in Washington I also made the most of the opportunity to visit as many museums and heritage sites as possible. I didn’t manage everything but I did make it to:

On the Mall
• Lincoln Memorial
• WWII memorial
• Vietnam Veterans Memorial
• Vietnam Women’s Veterans Memorial
• Washington Memorial
• Korean War Memorial

• Smithsonian Castle
• National Museum of Natural History
• National Museum of American History
• U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
• National Museum of the American Indian
• National Gallery of Art
• Hirshhorn Gallery
• Freer Gallery

Seeing the building site of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) – just next to the Washington Memorial – was really exciting. I’ve been reading about this online for ages and even shown President Obama’s ground-breaking speech about it in my lecture on museums and identity. I hope to be able to come back to see it when it opens in two years’ time. It promises to be a really significant museum – although it will raise the question of what then will be covered in the National Museum of American History (NMAH). How will the various subject-specific institutions like NMAAHC and the Museum of the American Indian relate to NMAH with its more general remit?

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was both as powerful and subtle as the many writings about it suggest. In fact, the whole memorial complex on the mall was extremely interesting. I was struck by the way that many of the memorial cross-reference each other; for example, the WWII memorial makes reference to both Lincoln and Washington and their ideals as a way of explaining why it was important for the US to participate in WWII. The overall effect of the Mall is to create a strong statement about the founding principles of the nation and what – from the point of view of the presidents, memorial makers and museum founders – it means to be American.

Seeing Judy Garland’s ruby slippers in the National Museum of American History was an unexpected treat given the film, the Wizard of Oz, was a childhood favourite of mine!

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