A man walking a dog with the ruins of a castle in background.
A dog walker at Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive,. Photographer credit Alun Bull. Image reference DP 233871.
A dog walker at Pontefract Castle, West Yorkshire. © Historic England Archive,. Photographer credit Alun Bull. Image reference DP 233871.

Wellbeing: Participation and Engagement

Projects about participation and engagement with heritage leading to an improved sense of wellbeing.

'Places of Joy': the role of heritage after lockdown

As lockdown was gradually released in Summer and Autumn 2020, people used heritage locations as places of reunion, sociality and escape, but also potentially to satisfy deeper psychological and socio-cultural needs.

A collaboration between researchers at University of Southampton, University of Cambridge and University of Surrey, and supported by Historic England and The Heritage Alliance, 'Places of Joy: The Role of Heritage After Lockdown' investigates whether and why heritage appears as a joyful space at a time of national crisis, and thus to understand the specific characteristics of heritage sites that contribute to wellbeing and resilience.

The research uses this unique period following the release of the initial lockdown, when access to heritage was regained after a period of deprivation, to explore the potentials of heritage by examining:

  • What motivates people to visit heritage spaces after lockdown? What needs do access to heritage spaces satisfy?
  • The role of heritage in wellbeing and how heritage might be used to develop future resilience? If heritage is fulfilling needs developed during lockdown, what are the qualities of heritage spaces that may enhance wellbeing and what could be the role of heritage in wellbeing going forward, including developing resilience should there be further spikes in COVID-19?
  • Whether visits to heritage locations at a time of heightened emotion are creating new forms of emotional resonance and perceptions of heritage. What impacts have these visits had on people and how does this affect their attitudes and visits to heritage sites going forward?

The research has been co-designed with the heritage sector in England and was being carried out at a series of different kinds of heritage sites, including both free and pay-to-enter. It takes a longitudinal approach, tracing responses to heritage from June–October 2020.

Project contacts

Eirini Gallou, Senior Social Analyst, Historic England: [email protected] 

Professor Joanna Sofaer, University of Southampton: [email protected]

The Museum of the Lost and Found

'The Museum of the Lost and Found' is a HE Covid-19 Recovery Fund project, led by Wessex Archaeology working in partnership with third sector organisations to reach a range of participants through an on-line heritage engagement approach.

Since late June 2020 Wessex Archaeology has run a collection of eight digital engagement sessions with community groups, NHS staff, young people and individuals across England, giving them behind the scenes access to our archives in Sheffield and Salisbury.

From these sessions each group was given the task of choosing two objects from a selection of four to go into our interactive digital museum. The chosen objects were then 3D scanned and uploaded in a way which presents the viewer with an opportunity to control, rotate, enlarge and closely examine the object allowing for greater access to each one.

In addition to this, participants were set home tasks, to create a personal response which they could then share within their groups.
We also invited the public to vote on their favourite objects, two videos were loaded onto our YouTube site and the public then chose via social media which four objects from a selection of eight they wanted to go into the museum.

Heritage at Risk and wellbeing: assessing wellbeing outcomes from completed project work

Historic England was pleased to award a tender to the University of Lincoln for our project “Heritage at Risk and Wellbeing: assessing wellbeing outcomes from completed project work”. The work aims to advance understanding of the relationship between ‘Heritage at Risk’ (HAR) interventions and wellbeing, in order to build capacity for such interventions, whose primary aim is to mitigate risk to tangible heritage assets, to achieve and demonstrate wellbeing more effectively in the future.

The project will collect and analyse new data from completed HAR projects in order to elicit the inter-relationships between activities and impacts and to develop toolkits for better support the achievement, capture and demonstration of these impacts in the future.

The project involves a transdisciplinary team from heritage, community health and business using a grounded theory approach in order to avoid preconceived ideas biasing results and instead elicit new insights on the inter-relationships between activity and impact. Researchers will collect new data from people involved in a sample of 12 completed HAR projects using semi-structured interviews, complemented by online surveys to cost-effectively maximise sample size.

Responses will be recorded, transcribed, coded, categorised and conceptualised with the aim of eliciting the inter-relationships between different aspects of wellbeing and different types of activity, sites, geographical location and people.

The new insights this process will deliver into these inter-relationships will support reflective heritage sector practice in designing and delivering future HAR projects better fitted to maximise wellbeing, including by developing toolkits to help enhance, identify and demonstrate the wellbeing impact of HAR projects.

Linda Monckton

Head of Wellbeing and Inclusion Strategy
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