You can’t handle the truth…but handling the real objects might improve wellbeing…

November 2, 2010

an example of the objects offered to patients for handling

Research from University College London is showing that allowing patients in hospitals to handle museum objects can improve their wellbeing

I met with Guy Noble and Linda Thomson today, who told me more about this research project. We have been working on a similar project at Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide, so it was great to talk to people with so much knowledge and experience.

Patients in the study are invited to handle one or more objects from a selection from the UCLH collection, including natural history specimens, prints and Egyptian objects. Before and after the sessions, they are asked to complete two short questionnaires, which are used to measure changes in their sense of wellbeing. 

We all know intuitively that patients in hospital are likely to be experiencing boredom and apprehension – as Linda described it, the box of objects becomes their world for 30 minutes, and they are able to focus on something else. Especially if they are already  museum visitors, interaction with the objects can mentally take them away from the hospital to a different time and place, recalling museum visits. 

Control studies have been done comparing results of actually handling objects vs looking at pictures of the same objects, and it would appear that handling the objects has more significant benefits. There is also evidence that through dementia, people may lose visual capacity and memory, but that sense of touch can remain robust.

This three year study is close to being finished.

Find out more at


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