Canterbury Museums and Galleries are all about wellness. We know that university isn’t easy for every student, and at the start of a new academic year we’re reaching out on an ongoing volunteering project which is designed especially for students who are affected by anxiety. It is being funded by the Museums Association Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund – a fund for projects that develop collections to achieve social impact.

Since 2013, The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge has been working on projects to promote health and wellbeing. This includes becoming a national Happy Museum, winning The Collections Trust and Historypin Best Participatory Practice National Award for its Paper Apothecary Project and being invited to give evidence to the All Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Enquiry at The House of Lords.

In 2015, The Beaney was selected along with 5 other museums to embark on a 4 year study as part of The Happy Museum project to investigate the impact of wellbeing and sustainability on individual, organisational and community resilience.

Building on this success, The Beaney continues to develop and expand this award-winning Health and Wellbeing programme as part of an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation 4-year funded project.

The aim is to fully establish The Beaney as a therapeutic museum, extend its current provision and to celebrate and highlight the positive benefits of its health and wellbeing work.

This particular collections project is running for eighteen months (it started in January 2019 and is due to finish in July 2020). The project has already reviewed over 200 items from our stored art collection, which includes work by Henry Moore, David Hockney, and a wide selection of Old Masters. Following an established system, our current volunteers have been recording each object in the collection, including taking photographs of every piece. Working with museum staff and art experts, they are also researching the collection so we can work out how best to share it with the general public in future.There will be a public facing element to the project, whose central pivot will be an exhibition hosted in our Special Exhibitions Gallery, with key input from the volunteers, at the conclusion of the Review.

In the past, our volunteers have reported that working with museum objects has helped their confidence, and wider evidence has shown that volunteering has a positive effect for people affected by anxiety. We hope this significant  and groundbreaking project will result in an upturn for our volunteers’ mental health. We are gathering evidence for this by asking volunteers to participate in an evaluation exercise as the project progresses.

We’d like volunteers to commit to one volunteering session a week during term time, essays and health permitting. A session lasts one and a half to two hours, one morning or afternoon a week.

If you are interested in participating and would like to receive an application form, please email Charlotte Halsey, Collections Assistant (Esmée Fairbairn Fund), at charlotte.halsey@canterbury.gov.uk Volunteers will be accepted on a first come, first served basis.

We look forward to hearing from you!