Heritage and Well-being
Heritage helps all of us. As has been evident during the coronavirus pandemic globally, a turn to the local for outdoors activity has revealed the great public appetite for and engagement with 'heritage on our doorsteps'. This phenomenon, coupled with digital engagements with heritage during pandemic restrictions, has shown how helpful and important heritage is to our health and wellbeing.
Heritage also has capacity to heal. It has strong and untapped potential to build social cohesion and to improve physical and mental wellbeing in individuals and among communities locally and globally, through improved physical activity and enhanced sense of place, connectedness and self-confidence. This potential is gradually being recognised, and is increasingly being factored into both public policy making and strategic planning in the heritage and museums sectors. Yet, despite the widespread recognition of its value, limited scholarly research has been carried out on the relationship between heritage, health and wellbeing. Meanwhile, museums, heritage organisations and community initiatives are faced with the challenge of how to effectively address such important issues in their forward planning.
To address this challenge requires innovative collaboration across disciplines and with stakeholders, to investigate not only factors concerning access to and engagement with heritage, but also the multi-sensory and immersive dimensions of heritage experience and their effects on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Importantly, we also recognise that many communities around the world feel that their understandings of the past are not represented in mainstream or dominant heritage narratives, and therefore are denied the potential health and wellbeing benefits of such engagement.
We therefore encourage research and engagement that involves the co-creation of history and exploration of heritage in and with marginalised or under-represented communities. Our research in this area involves working collaboratively with academic and heritage partners here and around the world. It also involves close collaboration with heritage organisations developing grassroots engagement strategies, connecting with local communities, and working with museums at a local, national, and global level.
The Heritage Hub recognizes, respects, and celebrates the ‘risky’ nature of heritage in considering the role of the past in resolving conflicts and dissonance in communities. Here the Centre’s research engages with established local peacebuilders such as Corrymeela, continues to deepen our established links with the heritage sector in Ireland and the UK—for example with National Museums Northern Ireland, Imperial War Museum, Irish Historic Houses and Estates, An Taisce, and the Irish Heritage Trust— and engages with a global and local dialogue on heritage.