A young user of the Horniman's Hands On Base handling boxes. Laura Mtungwazi.

Horniman Museum and Gardens, London

Georgina Kettlewell, 16.04.2018
Working with partner organisations to promote good mental health
The Horniman Museum and Gardens in London focuses on wellbeing in response to what our audience and local community needs and wants from us, and what we are able to provide through our location, collections and skills.

For some visitors, the positive impact on their wellbeing might come from spending time in our gardens. For others, seeking this kind of peace and pause indoors, we provide advice on the quieter times (and spaces) to visit the Horniman’s galleries and exhibits.

But we also take a more active approach to enhancing wellbeing for some of our community groups. We work with a range of local organisations and services that provide mental health and wellbeing support for people in Lewisham and neighbouring boroughs.

We offer opportunities to be active and social, to try out or learn something new, to use the Horniman’s handling collection objects in multi-sensory and creative ways, or simply to relax and have fun in a different environment.

One highlight of our wellbeing work is our World Mental Health Day activities to promote positive mental health and wellbeing. The day is led by some of our community partners, sharing with visitors their ideas about ways we can look after ourselves.

Activities at the 2017 event in October included SLaM NHS Trust Recovery College’s DIY happiness game; making cards with Three C’s Well Connected Forum to highlight the benefits to ourselves of giving to others; and joining members of Dragon Cafe, a flagship project of Mental Fight Club, to decorate an artist’s notebook to use to sketch and record observations.

SLaM Recovery College has also collaborated with us on reciprocal training and on a project to create one of our new discovery boxes – a mini museum in a box containing objects from our handling collection.

Group members took the lead in choosing a theme and deciding which objects to include, creating an object handling resource that will be used for years to come by visitors to the Horniman’s World Gallery (opens June 2018).  

The benefits of projects like these are mutual, as is borne out by group members themselves.

One participant said: “I am so grateful for this opportunity to help others learn about mental illness and how to maintain wellness. It’s great that the Horniman Museum has facilitated this for our group and I have met some lovely friends. New friends definitely aid recovery.”

Georgina Kettlewell is the head of learning at the Horminan Museum and Gardens in London