At the start of this year, the Museum of Gloucester and city-wide partners produced 300 free weekly wellbeing art packs over a five-week period for our community.
Through collaboration, creativity and teamwork (and in a Covid-secure environment), the packs took hundreds of museum objects and stories, all themed around Gloucester, into more than 1,500 homes across all wards of the city.
This was part of a city-wide creative response, started by local organisation Gloucester Culture Trust in spring 2020, to help tackle loneliness, isolation and boredom in the community. The museum joined as a partner to provide further support and content during the third lockdown.
Each week we produced 100 packs for children, 100 for teens and 100 for older adults. It was great to commission artists and work with the museum’s collections to inspire people about Gloucester’s history, connect with local artists and help people of all ages get creative, mindful and active. The Gloucester Community Building Collective, through their network of street champions, distributed the packs to community centres, care-homes and individuals across the city each week. It was a huge team effort!
Each week, we chose objects from our collection and created an activity inspired by them. We saw this as a chance to not only share our collection, but also to trial some activities we could use for our updated education programme, currently in development.
The Wellbeing Weeks:
The packs included everything needed to complete an activity, from felt-tips to feathers, dance steps and film storyboards.
We worked with staff from the rest of Gloucester City Council Cultural Services, Gloucester Guildhall and English Heritage’s Blackfriars, to create, source and deliver the packs.
The entire team at the museum was involved. The collections team helped to find objects and write pack information, while our marketing/digital interns and apprentices did the design work. Shielding staff at home created art ideas, admin staff purchased materials and front-of-house staff packed the bags.
The positive outcome was not only for those receiving the packs, but for all staff involved.
We had grand ideas for sourcing 900 potatoes to make print blocks at one point, but time was against us. We could have used a lot less paper (something our community called us out on), but we wanted to provide lots of information to those who did not have internet access. We were proud to share our collection with people who may not have visited the museum before. We also really loved showcasing the talented artists and creative people living in the city of Gloucester.
We were thinking about how this could work as an annual winter engagement activity. We knew we needed to work more closely with the community on activities that they wanted to do. In one area of Gloucester, more than 12 languages are spoken – how do we make sure the diversity of our community is shared in these packs? 1,500 pieces of art were potentially produced from these packs, how do we gather and share this in the museum? How do we take the museum to those that cannot or do not want to visit us? What does a museum without walls really look and feel like? We are excited about this.
The wellbeing art packs were supported by Gloucester City Council, Gloucester Culture Trust, Gloucester Community Building Collective, Active Gloucestershire, The Museum of Gloucester, Gloucester Guildhall, Blackfriars Priory, Gloucestershire Funders, Age UK, Read Gloucestershire and SoGlos.
This whole experience has changed how the museum interacts and engages with a new type of audience and is mutually beneficial to both parties. Some of the audiences may not have access to digital content and there are those who prefer a venue to visit, but it has greatly enhanced our offer; so much so that we are thinking of making this a yearly digital-detox event every year.
You can find out more and download the packs on our website and social media at museumofgloucester.co.uk/wellbeing and #MuseumWellbeing.
Amy Washington is the events and marketing officer at the Museum of Gloucester