University of Edinburgh Museums - Museums Association

University of Edinburgh Museums

Prescribe Culture: heritage for health and social care

Prescribe Culture is the University of Edinburgh’s flagship heritage-based, non-clinical initiative supporting those with mental health and wellbeing challenges through cultural and social prescribing.

The development of Prescribe Culture has been led by the university’s museum manager, Ruthanne Baxter. It began in 2018 with a steering group that included representation from the university’s GPs, counselling service, student wellbeing and student’s union, and a focus on the student community.

Today it supports student and community members of all ages, internationally. The current offer includes two online options, which provide access “visits” to cultural venues such as the National Museum of Scotland (pictured) and V&A Dundee, and one non-digital option.

Take 30 Together Virtual is open to anyone over 18 seeking support for mental wellbeing; Programme 6 Online is open to postgraduate and early year researchers; and At Home with Heritage is a heritage engagement project for those in the local community living with health and social inequalities, for whom digital is not a solution.

Partnership working is vital to the success of Prescribe Culture. In addition to the university-based health and wellbeing partners, Prescribe Culture’s external health and social care partners include Edinburgh Link Workers Network, Age Scotland, Voices of Carers Across the Lothians (VOCAL) and the Thera Trust.

To date Prescribe Culture has received funding from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) to underwrite the costs of an independent evaluation consultant for the pilot project in 2019 and this year it has secured further funding from MGS to appoint a community connector as part of the At Home with Heritage project.

The Prescribe Culture lead is working with Queen’s University, Kingston and Algoma University, both in Ontario, Canada, and the NOVA University in Lisbon, Portugal, all of which intend to adopt the Prescribe Culture model for their campus and communities.

Next steps include getting a Programme 6 offer ready for delivery in-person, on-site for the next academic year in Edinburgh and developing robust evidence of the benefits of bringing heritage closer to support psychosocial challenges and mental ill health.