Pioneering research by a University of Sheffield graduate academic has been recognised with a prestigious award.
Professor Helen Chatterjee has been awarded the inaugural Health Humanities Medal in recognition of her research into how museums can be beneficial to health.
Recognising her work heading the ‘Museums on Prescription’ project, judges awarded Professor Chatterjee – a professor of Biology at University College London (UCL) – the ‘Leadership Award’, one of five categories represented at the awards. She then went on to receive the overall Health Humanities Medal, despite stiff competition from the other four award holders.
Chatterjee recently led a three-year collaboration project between UCL, Canterbury Christ Church University and seven museums from central London and Kent, looking at how museums can help those who are lonely and at risk of isolation.
The judges said: “This is a brilliant example of the value of arts and humanities research. She has kick-started a whole new movement in museums which she has made very accessible. She is an exceptional leader and her work and contributions to arts and humanities research really stood out.”
The ‘museums on prescription’ project saw 115 people, aged between 65 and 94-years-old, take part in sessions led by museum staff, including talks, behind the scenes tours and a variety of activities. Analysis from Helen and her team showed significant improvements in psychological wellbeing, improved quality of life and an increased sense of belonging. The Royal Society of Public Health awarded two awards to the project last year in its ‘Health & Wellbeing’ and ‘Arts and Health’ categories. Through her work she has formed partnerships with museums, health and social care organisations to better understand the value of museums as community assets capable of supporting public health
In 2015 she established the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing – a consortium aimed at supporting research in museums and health.
Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said: “Health Humanities is an important interdisciplinary field which applies arts and humanities approaches to drive improvements in health, social care and wellbeing.”