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Nottinghamshire museum awarded £99,000 for ‘Arts on Prescription’ scheme

Mansfield Museum has been awarded £99,213 to help fund an innovative new arts on prescription scheme to help survivors of trauma, domestic and sexual abuse improve their mental health.

The grant followed a successful bid to the Esme Fairburns Collection Fund run by the Museums Association.

It will be used to set up a scheme called Nature Power to use the museum’s natural history collection in ways that help improve the health and well-being of highly vulnerable and often isolated adults.

The scheme would involve working with social prescribers and voluntary organisations and exploring the role the museum and local people could play in natural history and climate action.

Cllr Stuart Richardson, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: “This collection contains rare specimens which are of national significance and we are committed to ensuring they remain accessible and relevant to local people.

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“Through the Nature Power project and developing our partnerships with local organisations, we hope to attract an audience which is quite to reach and enable them to experience heritage and culture in a therapeutic way.

“It is part of a wider council aims to share culture and heritage with bigger and more diverse audiences and to strengthen a sense of place and belonging among local people.

“In addition, the potential for this collection to inspire local people about the natural world and develop an understanding of biodiversity are an important strand in encouraging local people to respond to the climate emergency.

“There is much work still to do on this scheme, but this grant will facilitate progress on this project at a time when the council budget for the museum is having to contract.”

Nature Power would draw on the museum’s small but impressive natural history collection of some 1,500 items.

They include about 800 taxidermy birds, of which over 40 have been identified as rare and significant specimens including a large diorama featuring two secretary birds with a snake.

Other rarities are a large collection of birds with natural colour variations, such as albino plumage, plus historic specimens of rare bird visitors to the UK which help to highlight how today’s ecology differs from the past.

The collection will be used to guide art activities and environmental activities including trips to Sherwood Forest, local parks, and other to museums and galleries.

There would also be annual exhibitions to showcase how the power of nature and creativity have been harnessed for therapeutic purposes, and it would create a new permanent bird gallery called World of Birds.

It will even include a dance project, involving a dance expert from Coventry University, as a radical new approach to interpreting natural history and blending work across the council’s cultural services.

Nature Power will be the latest in a series of programmes that have sought to widen the museum’s reach in the community.

Other schemes have included:

  • It Runs Through Us – an exhibition, event and oral history project to celebrate local African and Caribbean heritage around the Windrush anniversary last year.
  • Including disabled people in the museum workforce, visitors and collection in a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
  • Art Power, a scheme that offers curative, creative and empowering pathways for women who have experienced domestic violence or disadvantage.
  • A volunteer programme that aims to address many urgent issues for Mansfield including skills shortages, loneliness and isolation and poor mental health.
  • A Decolonisation programme that aims to address legacies of colonialism and empire.
  • A Young Curators scheme to inspire young people and address gaps in the museum’s collections, including under-represented subjects, histories and peoples.

Since becoming an Arts Council England National Portfolio Holder last year, other schemes have sought to bring art closer to local communities.

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