Doncaster Museum beats off global competition for chance at a museum 'Oscar'

Awards season has arrived, but not just for movie stars: pioneering work by the museum team at Heritage Doncaster - which helped local people cope with loneliness during lockdown and beyond - has just been nominated for an ‘Oscar of the museum world’, the Museums and Heritage Awards 2022, beating off competition from hundreds of museums across the globe.

Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 11:08 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 11:08 am

They were led by Victoria Ryves, who was first inspired to take action four years ago after finding out about the shocking impact of social isolation and loneliness on both our mental and physical health, estimated to be as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Mixing innovative use of museum collections and storytelling, she created History, Health & Happiness - one of the first dedicated museum programmes in the country tackling social isolation and poor mental health in the community.

When the pandemic hit, Victoria’s team were also amongst the first to launch live virtual social clubs to make sure the community stayed connected.

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Trying out historic recipes at one of Heritage Doncaster's immersive social clubs

Trying out historic recipes at one of Heritage Doncaster's immersive social clubs.

Victoria said: “It’s wonderful news for our home-grown community project, History, Health & Happiness, to get a nomination for such a prestigious prize - a tribute to the tireless work of our very small team at Heritage Doncaster during challenging times.”

“I was originally aiming to help people who were feeling isolated through poor mental or physical health, or circumstance – from young mums to those living with dementia or bereavement.

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"But then the arrival of Covid-19 made social isolation a fact of daily life,” she explained.

“As we’d already developed History, Health and Happiness, we were able to react quickly, and the programme’s been making a difference to the lives of many local people right across the borough ever since.

“I’d been witnessing the powerfully positive impact that museums could have on people’s wellbeing for years through my work for Doncaster Museum, and now the success of History, Health & Happiness proves that museums are not just about preserving the past, but have an important and integral role in our communities in the future.”

History, Health & Happiness has been nominated in the ‘Community Engagement Programme of the Year’ category, with the winners announced at a celeb-worthy ceremony on 11 May 2022. It’s the third time that History, Health and Happiness has been shortlisted for a major award. Victoria has also been shortlisted for awards herself as a result of her work developing the programme.

“As a cherry on the cake, we’re just weeks away from announcing our exciting new ‘in person’ calendar of events and workshops, the first full programme after so many months of being online. The shortlisting’s certainly put an extra springtime in our steps. Whether we win or not this year, it’s helping local people, seeing them transform before our eyes, that’s the real reward. I just want to make people happy through history. That makes me happy!” said Victoria.

To find out more about Heritage Doncaster’s ‘History, Health and Happiness’ activities and resources free for everyone, follow social media @DanumGLAM or visit www.heritagedoncaster.org.uk.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.