Time to Talk: how a collections project has improved wellbeing during the pandemic

For Time to Talk Day 2021, Alex Walker, our Project Officer for On The Move, talks to two volunteers about their experiences of taking part in the project, which focuses on collections and wellbeing.

At a time when so many of us are living day to day with the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, it’s so important to think about your mental health and wellbeing. Time to Talk day is all about opening up and having those small conversations about your mental health. How are you feeling today?

Wellbeing and mental health are at the centre of the social impact projects at Hampshire Cultural Trust. On the Move is one such project, funded by the Esme Fairbairn Collections Fund, which focuses on making collections accessible for wellbeing.

For the past eight months, I’ve been working with a group of volunteers to research the historic vehicle collection cared for by the trust, sharing our findings online via a video call. During this time we have researched over 30 vehicles.

I asked two volunteers to tell me about why they enjoy taking part and how it has impacted their mental health and wellbeing. Here’s what they said…

Stephen, Volunteer at Bursledon Windmill:

“The project was just what I was looking for. I have mobility problems so long walks were not open to me as a coping strategy, whereas online research has given structure to my locked down world. I don’t have any particular interest in motor vehicles as such and the opportunity to explore new areas had appeal. It has provided me with a stimulus to research things historical which is a passion of mine.
"Meeting, online or otherwise, is essential for this kind of project. I feel responsible to the group for what I produce which provides an incentive when I feel tired or ‘flat’. It’s also a huge part of the whole learning process for me. Listening to what other members have found is fascinating; the knowledge and experience they bring to the group is humbling. I’m forever thinking ‘Wow, I didn’t think of that’. Other people's contributions have certainly improved my research skills.
"Getting stuck into researching a particular line of thought and coming up with something new (to me at least) has been really exciting. However, our Thursday meetings have to be the most rewarding part of the project. Sharing with others, learning from others and, hopefully, making a worthwhile contribution to the group have made the whole venture worthwhile.
"I live alone and although I have support from my family, the lockdown experience was daunting. The project has provided me with a structure that impacts on my whole day/week/month. This has been invaluable helping me through ‘down times’.”

Erica, Costumed Interpreter at Milestones Museum:

“I signed up for the project because I was missing volunteering and was up for a new challenge! I really liked the idea of being part of a new project, and learning new things and meeting/working with others.
"Meeting online to talk with other people gives you a great sense of belonging and camaraderie. It helps you to keep in touch with how things are going for others, and to swap news and views.
"What I have enjoyed most about taking part is the fun of it! You never know who or what you are going to discover when doing the research. And then you look forward to getting together at the end of the week to share all these findings. I’ve also enjoyed 'tapping into' the knowledge and experience of others.
"Taking part has helped my wellbeing in so many positive ways! It’s definitely made me feel more connected with others during the pandemic. It’s been something to look forward to, has given a sense of purpose and also helps structure the week. It gives a great sense of shared achievement, and gaining further knowledge, that you know you can then share back with others, through future volunteering etc.”

We are currently recruiting our next cohort of participants for On The Move, starting with online sessions exploring the collections before meeting in person when lockdown restrictions lift. For more information click here.

Find out more about the collections cared for by Hampshire Cultural Trust.

For information about the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, click here.

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This article was written by:
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Alex Walker

Alex is General Manager at Hampshire Wardrobe, Hampshire Cultural Trust's costume hire service consisting of over 10,000 costumes from ancient times to 1980s!
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