Nature and the Sense of Self

Myna Trustram, Research Manager, Manchester City Galleries (Renaissance) writes…


Some of you will know about the Who Cares? Museums, Health and Wellbeing programme that Renaissance NW has been running for the last two years.  The six members of the NW museum hub ran projects with health partners which sought to use their collections to assist health and wellbeing.  The partners came from NHS clinics, community groups, day care centres and so on.  We commissioned the Psychosocial Research Unit at the University of  Central Lancashire to do research about the impact and the methods of the work.

One of their findings is about the effect on a person’s sense of themselves when they make a close attachment to an object from the public collections of the museum.  It can reduce a sense of social isolation (both a cause and effect of mental ill health) because contact is made with socially owned objects.  One feels more included.

The findings have made us think about the public  nature of museum collections and how they can help to improve public  health.

Why am I telling you this?  Because of all the collections in museums, you might argue that natural science collections are the most public.  The mammals, birds, insects and geology belonged to no one before they were collected.  They are the public heritage.  I wonder what effect making a connection with the natural heritage might have on a person’s sense of their place in the world?



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Filed under Meanings, Museums, Objects

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