Conversation for Wellbeing (C4W)

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).

Find out more here.

Our History

The Restoration Trust formed in April 2014 as a Community Organisation, with a mission to bridge the gap between cultural and health/social organisations.

Laura Drysdale (Director) knew from supporting people with mental health problems for Homegroup and Julian Support that socially isolated and marginalised people often have cultural and creative enthusiasms, which connect them to the outside world and are vital to their wellbeing. However, these are seldom acknowledged by health and social care provision.

Cultural organisations like arts centres, museums, archives and historic sites may have programmes for marginalised people but they tend to be short lived. Budget constraints and funders’ requirements often push them to fall back on working with less demanding participants to meet inclusion targets. 

Arts and health is a well established discipline, and it informs and overlaps with our work, notably in the areas of mental health, partnership, arts on referral (or arts on prescription) and personal health budgets.

There is developing museums and wellbeing practice, particularly in dementia and employment, and some museum education programmes are becoming more community/wellbeing focussed.

There is comparatively little activity or research literature on the psychological impact of engagement with heritage.

Laura and a group of colleagues, who became trustees of the Restoration Trust, felt that they could bring new funding and with willing partners create their own projects. This approach was inspired by the learning derived from Laura’s management of two long-term looking and making projects – ‘Living With Me’ and ‘Voyage With Me’ undertaken with vulnerable women at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

In 2015 the Restoration Trust became a registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation and won its first funding bid; £87,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for ‘Change Minds’, a partnership with Norfolk Record Office and Together for Mental Wellbeing.