Alex Bird is the Museum Development Officer (Workforce and Skills) for Museum Development North West. He is also a trustee of the Museums Association and has held a number of roles in museums from Visitor Services to Education, with a short stint as Curator for a project with BBC Manchester. Here he tells us about his experience of meeting and working with Paintings in Hospitals...

I had the good fortune of meeting Amisha Karia and Ben Pearce at our Annual Funding Fair we ran a few years ago, in which we bring together museum sector funders and give people the chance to meet them and get info on funding available. We hadn’t planned to meet and discuss partnership work but I knew immediately that I wanted to find a way to work together.

We subsequently met at the Museums Association Conference to discuss how Paintings in Hospitals could get involved with organisations in the North West, but it wasn’t until about a year later that we started to really think about how we could work together. Over the last twelve months, I have had the opportunity to see the wonderful work Paintings in Hospitals do first hand, through site visits to hospitals and their offices. I have seen patients looking at the art on display in a doctor’s waiting room and have seen the joy it brings them.

Museum Development North Wests Annual Funding Fair

Museum Development North West's Annual Funding Fair

Museums are increasingly embedding health and wellbeing into the work they do, and with more and more evidence showing the impact that museums can have on the health and wellbeing of their audiences, the time is right to support small museums to do this type of work.

As I work with museums in the North West, this is what I wanted to see with museum objects, and why the project we have in mind is to get museums’ collections into hospitals. This is all very well, but the key is making it meaningful. The museums need to be fully embedded and not simply a passive display. We need to ensure it's not only what patients want on display but staff too, which is why we’re using co-curation to ensure we do this. I want to challenge the participating museums to think outside of the box and look at new ways of working.

I have been hugely inspired by the Culture Shots Programme in Greater Manchester, which is run by museums and galleries and offers patients and staff to access a week-long series of free cultural events and activities in a hospital environment. Culture Shots is the pinnacle of this type of work and if I’m able to replicate just some of its impact I will be a happy man.

Thinking back, if it wasn’t for that chance meeting at the Funding Fair, the project we’re embarking on together would never have occurred to me. Being able to work alongside such expertise has been, and continues to be, a privilege and I’m excited to see where the coming months will take us.

In our 60th year, can you help Paintings in Hospitals raise £60,000 to bring art, comfort and inspiration into the lives of patients and carers?

Celebrating 60 years of Paintings in Hospitals in 2019.

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Find out more about Alex and Museum Development North West via their blog. You can also find Alex on Twitter (@AlexBirdMuseum)