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Cornwall Museums Partnership

#RDNetwork: Mental health and wellbeing in children and young people

During 2020 the Cornwall Museums Partnership Twitter page will be handing the reigns over each month to local organisations, who will be guest hosting our Rural Diversity Networking hour; #RDNetwork.

In May, Alison Bowyer, Executive Director of Kids in Museums, kindly took over our Twitter page to discuss how museums can support children and young people and their mental health and wellbeing. Please continue reading to hear all about Alison’s experience of our #RDNetwork Twitter Takeover…


We were pleased to host May’s #RDNetwork chat to discuss whether museums and heritage sites play enough of a role in the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great opportunity to celebrate what museums are already doing and see how we can expand this work further.

Mind has described young people’s mental health as “rapidly becoming one of the major challenges our society faces.” Research from Understanding Society shows that children’s level of happiness has fallen significantly in the last decade. With many young people separated from their friends during lockdown, and museums with a great opportunity post lockdown to connect to their local community, this is likely to become even more of a priority over the coming year.

The questions we asked during the #RDNetwork were:

1. How can museums and galleries better support mental health and wellbeing in children and young people?
2. How could museums and galleries do more to support their younger community?
3. How could museums and galleries help tackle mental health in children and young people during or after COVID-19?
4. Do you feel museums and galleries play a big enough part in mental health awareness, wellbeing and health of children and young people? What would you like to see more of?

Museums joined in the conversation from across Cornwall and beyond, and were in consensus that museums are ideally placed to support young people’s wellbeing, whether it is in person or online. When you consider the Wheel of Wellbeing, heritage sites can provide the opportunity to learn, connect with others, take notice, give time and look after the planet.
Participants questioned whether wellbeing should be added to formal learning programmes and pointed to the role of museums as a safe ‘sanctuary’ outside of a structed learning environment.


From our Hurdles to Participation report, we know that young people often think of museums as ‘boring’ and ‘not for them’. If we want to offer wellbeing support, we need to think about whether our spaces are attractive and welcoming to them. To best engage young people, museums need to consider pricing, age-appropriate activities, an engaging digital presence and how to represent their views through displays, youth panels or volunteering opportunities.

Penlee House Gallery and Museum stressed the importance of acknowledging young people’s views and showcasing their work. How can we use objects as catalysts for promoting creativity and self-expression?

We shared this report from Beatfreeks, which is useful in understanding how young people are experiencing COVID-19. 65% of those surveyed said COVID-19 had made them worried about mental health. They felt connection with others helped most with this and want to be consulted about the response and recovery from the pandemic.

During lockdown, museums have been providing a wide range of activities for young people online. We enjoyed hearing great examples from SS Great Britain and Bodmin Keep.

One key point that came up in the discussion was how important it is for museums to partner with local organisations to reach and engage with young people. Museums need to understand the needs of their local community and ask young people themselves what they would like to see.

As communities recover from COVID-19, there is a big potential role for museums in this space and it would be great to see more getting involved in wellbeing work. The Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance website is a good place to start.

Kids in Museums has held wellbeing training for museums staff in the past and hopes to do so again in future. We are really keen to hear from museums in what other support and resources they would find useful.

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