Conservation for Wellbeing (C4W) is a pilot project that combines conservation, archives and mental health. As well as practising conservation, participants will gain behind-the-scenes knowledge of how heritage collections are protected and cared for at London Metropolitan Archives.
This is a completely new way of engaging people who live with mental health problems with heritage and creativity. It includes an exhibition and research into the wellbeing outcomes for participants.
C4W uses original archives from St Luke’s Hospital in Islington, founded in 1751 to look after mental ill people. The hospital closed in 2011 and the archives were deposited at London Metropolitan Archives by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.
C4W is run by The Restoration Trust, in partnership with London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training (SMART) and the Institute of Conservation (Icon) with research support from University College London (UCL).
The Conservation for Wellbeing team presented this video at the Institute for Conservation Conference 2022: Reaching Out for Recognition on 25th May.
The C4W partnership of Icon, the Restoration Trust, the London Metropolitan Archives, funded by City Bridge Trust and run by conservator Helen Lindsay, is having a second round this summer, with participants joining from the Stuart Low Trust in Islington.
Case Studies has been devised by Norwich University of the Arts in conjunction with Change Minds, a partnership between the Restoration Trust, and Norfolk Record Office. It is part of Scaling Up Change Minds, a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Central to the Change Minds project is access to the resource of Dr Hills’ Norfolk County Asylum Books held in the Norfolk Records Office and Norwich Millennium Library. Change Minds engages local people and online visitors in the stories it reveals through a fascinating investigation into local heritage, mental health and identity.
In this exhibition you can see the results of Year 2 BA (Honours) Fine Art students from NUA, who have used these archives and made alternative portraits that represent just a tiny number of the people documented in the asylum records. Through engaging in this project, the students have developed historic and cultural research skills using the asylum casebooks, they have visualised and re-imagined biographical material and experienced a sense of existential purpose evident in their artworks. NUA students have enjoyed several weeks to explore this project, but Case Studies can be adapted into a shorter experience that can be just as rewarding. So, the next step in NUA’s Case Studies, working alongside Change Minds, is to devise a short, self-contained creative workshop that improves the wellbeing of people identified as experiencing mental health issues and low income. NUA students represented in this exhibition now have the opportunity to draw from their experience and help launch Case Studies to the wider community.
Disappointed in Love
Oil on board
Disappointed in Love is a portrait of Robert Gunns, the son of a farmer, who at age 33 was institutionalised in Norfolk County Lunatic asylum in the year 1880. His was one of the first faces I saw when looking though the Case book recording the occupants form June 1887 to March 1880. I was stuck by his eyes and felt that his presence radiated such sadness. Although I found his case illegible, I felt that the reason for his admittance (the title of this piece) was enough for me to paint him.
I enjoy the prospect that these people, the working class of the late 1870s and 1880s, who would never have been able to afford a portrait and were only photographed because they found themselves in this unique circumstance, are now almost 150 years later being portrayed and remembered. I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to pay tribute to these forgotten faces.
The Wrapper Dress
This dress is a response to one of the patients in Dr Hills’ casebook, her name was Elizabeth field. She faced many difficulties before entering the asylum. For example, after the birth of her first daughter, she showed signs of post-natal depression, as well as the death of her sister-in-law who she was very close to. I wanted to focus on some of the behaviours she exhibited while at the asylum. For example, she would meticulously rip her clothes due to her anxious and “restless” state. At the time this was quite significant as clothes were very valuable items so this would have been seen as very destructive. I wanted to replicate the dress she would have worn and what it might have looked like due to these behaviours.
I am primarily a sculptural artist, so this was new and ambitious territory for me. Elizabeth spent 3 years in the asylum and in the photograph of her taken when she leaves the asylum, she looks quite different. It seems she has perhaps used fashion, makeup, and hairstyles as a form of self-care.
Trapped in the Birdcage
Watercolour paintings on watercolour paper, metal birdcage
Trapped in the Birdcage is a piece inspired by Dr Hills’ Casebooks, focusing on the different patients featured. The choice of a birdcage as my container to display the paintings was driven by symbolic value. The birdcage is meant to represent the mind and soul, with a bird usually inside this would suggest an unhealthy, trapped soul. Instead of the usual bird inside, I have created fragmented portraits of certain patients, focusing in on certain details of their faces such as the eyes. This generates a disjointed appearance, but you can still tell who they are which I feel holds further symbolic value to the feelings and experiences around mental health, the feeling of a loss of identity and not feeling completely like yourself. I used the existing interior of the cage as a method of hanging the portraits, which helped in generating this interesting layering. I have paid close attention to painting the portraits and used watercolour to better achieve an old as well as delicate appearance.
Mixed media (painting, film, reflection)
My heart broke when I saw the photographs of patients and read the personal details recorded in the tomes in the Records Office in Norwich. To reflect my feeling, I decided to pay homage to our forefathers, whose life expectation was so very different from my own. Even the process of being photographed on arrival must have been traumatic, the camera must have looked a strange piece of equipment. I decided to paint portraits using the photographs as reference, purely to get closer to the subject. However, through the process of painting the portraits, I was inspired to make a small film.
Hello, I’m Mel, I’m currently 18st 5lbs and over the next few months I plan on losing 3 stone or more in weight to help raise money for The Restoration Trust’s Expert Advisory Board.
The Expert Advisory Board that I am a part of is run through the Restoration Trust and my plan is to take a partial amount of the donations I receive to purchase T shirts for the group. Any extra donations will also be put back into the trust.
The Restoration Trust is important to me because they helped support me with their Human Henge project which did help improve my mental wellbeing. The Restoration Trust has not only just supported me as one of their participants, but it has also opened up new opportunities for me and now I am lucky enough to work alongside them as one of their trustees.
I’m using this opportunity to raise money to support The Restoration Trust so they can continue to support others in the position I myself was once in. With the support of Tia managing this gofundme page for me, I plan to keep a log throughout my weight loss journey and will keep everyone updated as I hit my milestones. Any and all support is welcomed and encouraged whilst I am on this journey. Go to my gofundme page here.
Human Henge, our archaeology and mental health project in the inspiring ancient landscape of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, has been awarded a grant to scale up, through a new research programme that will unleash innovative ways to use culture and nature to tackle health disparities.
Scaling Up Human Henge will be a partnership led by Professor Tim Darvill at Bournemouth University, including ourselves, English Heritage, Richmond Fellowship, Rethink and the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. It will look at using prehistoric cultural heritage sites to enhance mental health well-being in marginalized communities.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is funding 12 new research projects exploring how culture and nature can level up health and wellbeing across the UK.
The programme will see researchers working in collaboration with communities and health partners across the UK.
They will establish how cultural and natural interventions can be placed at the service of public health.
Making ancient monuments and landscapes work to enhance the mental health wellbeing of present-day communities not only gives meaning to the past but also hope for the future.
Through this project we will use aspects of our rich prehistoric heritage to co-create innovative approaches to social prescribing through cultural heritage therapy programmes. Read the full article here.
“Our participants fall into the gulf in mental health provision between GP services and hospital admission, so we engage people with heritage and creativity in co-created partnerships that support their mental health.”
Thanks to University of East Anglia (UEA) for including Laura Drysdale’s blog about how harnessing heritage can stimulate creativity and support our mental health. Read the full blog here.
📷 A group meets as part of the Burgh Castle Almanac project, which spent two years exploring the historic landscape at Burgh Castle Roman Fort (Photograph by Rob Fairclough).
Norfolk-based charity the Restoration Trust has been awarded a grant of £70,000 by Historic England to run a 2-year social prescribing and heritage pilot project in Great Yarmouth and Waveney. The project aims to demonstrate heritage’s potential to contribute to meeting the wellbeing needs of local people through social prescribing, via appointment of a Heritage Link Worker.
Emily Cannell, a graduate of Norwich University of the Arts who is passionate about the opportunities for heritage and creativity to improve mental health and wellbeing, will take up this new role on 28th March 2022. Emily will collaborate with partners Access Community Trust, D.I.A.L. Great Yarmouth and local Primary Care Networks and social prescribing link workers to connect local people who are referred to social prescribing services with heritage activities and organisations in the area, including within the Heritage Action Zones in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Building on the Restoration Trust’s archaeology and mental health project ‘Burgh Castle Almanac’, based at the Roman fort on the banks of Breydon Water, the Heritage Link Worker Project will address the barriers that prevent people on low income and with poor health from enjoying local heritage.
Evidence published by Historic England and others shows that heritage improves mental health and wellbeing and strengthens people’s sense of belonging. Social prescribing proves to be a powerful tool to help deliver individual and community wellbeing and address health inequalities, including through heritage interventions. The NHS’s target is that 900,000 people in England will be benefitting from a social prescription by 2024, and the Heritage Link Worker pilot supports the Restoration Trust and Historic England’s vision of using heritage as a vital contribution to achieving this ambition.
To find out more about this project and to connect with the Heritage Link Worker, please contact Darren France, Project Manager, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
📷 Members of Burgh Castle Almanac mental health project enjoying a walk at the Roman fort
We are delighted to be publishing the Burgh Castle Almanac 2018 – 2020, designed by Robert Fairclough and edited by Ellen Hardy. With thanks to the Broads Authority, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and all our wonderful partners, stakeholders and members.
Burgh Castle Almanac (BCA) was an archaeology, creativity and wellbeing programme based at Burgh Castle Roman Fort and Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth between 2018 and 2020. It invited local people living with mental health challenges to engage with a local heritage landscape as ‘culture therapy’. You can find the full Almanac here.
We are beyond thrilled to say that Richard Johnson, who has been part of Change Minds since 2018, has won the Ecclesiastical’s Heritage Hero 2021 Award.
In 2018 Richard participated in Change Minds, the archives and mental health programme that we run with Norfolk Record Office. He was profoundly impressed by the life, work and character of Dr William Charles Hills, Medical Superintendent of Norfolk County Asylum from 1861 to 1887, and began research that revealed new evidence about the history of mental health treatment.
Richard’s love for this good man led to another Change Minds project, Dr Hills’ Casebook (February 2020 to December 2021), where he provided an astonishing amount of research and personal support for participants. This and his Aide Memoire about Dr Hills and the Asylum underpinned participants’ research and creativity, a professional theatre production and a published Anthology.
Richard is integral to Scaling Up Change Minds, February 2022 – March 2025, where, with Norfolk Record Office, we will create an online information hub tested by six pilots in archives in England and Scotland, manualising the use of mental health and colonial archives for social prescription.
Through these projects, Richard has helped raise £328+k for heritage and mental health, supporting around 90 people with mental health problems, reducing stigma and influencing heritage and mental health sectors.
Richard tirelessly advocates for Change Minds and the Restoration Trust. In 2021 he spoke at conferences run by the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance, Community Archives and Heritage Group and First Fortnight Festival. He is a member of the Charity Archives Development Plan Steering Group and the Workhouse Network, and volunteers for Gressenhall Museum and Southwell Workhouse. Richard is on our Expert Advisory Board, advising trustees and staff from the perspective of experience of mental illness.
Richard has brought us learning, kindness, commitment, connections and resilience. Gary Tuson, Norfolk County Archivist and our partner in Change Minds, agrees: Richard is a prize-winning volunteer!
Take a look at our ‘Richard Johnson, Heritage Hero 2021’ video here.