International Conference Cultural Heritage for Mental Health 2 | Call for Contributions

The much positive feedback we received after the international conference Participation in cultural heritage for mental health recovery on 29 and 30 November 2018 in Ghent has encouraged us to organise a new edition in 2020. FARO, Museum Dr. Guislain and Iedereen Leest are teaming up again to deliver the second International Conference Cultural Heritage for Mental Health 2 on Thursday 10thand Friday 11th December 2020.

Conference aim

In many places around the world archives, museums, universities and organizations in the health care sector are working together on long-term trajectories, projects and innovative activities. Many of these focus on using heritage collections to improve the wellbeing and health of people as well as measuring and evaluating the impact of those interventions.

This conference wants to bring together individuals from the public, academic and voluntary sectors to promote learning, discussion and debate around interventions with cultural heritage with the aim of improving the wellbeing and health of people recovering from mental health illness or people in a vulnerable situation.

A symbolic venue

The Museum Dr. Guislain is an obvious choice as a location for this conference. Housed in the oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857, this museum aims to break down the many prejudices that still define what is ‘mentally ill’ and what is ‘normal’. The museum where the conference takes place is surrounded by a mental health hospital that is located in the nineteenth-century belt around Ghent.

Three strands

All the contributions for this conference will be structured in the programme around the following strands:

Thinking Through Making.
There is a relationship between making and thinking and we know that mental wellbeing can be improved by immersing people in challenging activities. This is why making things is so important to wellbeing. Learning traditional skills in particular have a special appeal. In addition, making things can also be a way to reach people who are less able to express themselves in traditional group activities with cultural heritage, where communication is important. For example, museums can organize practical group activities in order to learn skills and make contacts.

Green Spaces of Care.
There are many inspiring examples of cultural heritage institutions that use green spaces or gardening as a framework for working with vulnerable people. After all, a green space is often the way for a community to come into contact with a museum in an accessible way. For example, people can create a vegetable garden together with the museum or participate in creative workshops with material that comes from the museum garden.

Textual Healing.
Archives and libraries can use their heritage collections in many ways to achieve positive impact on the wellbeing of people and communities. Documents and books can inspire, make people think and can be used in all kinds of activities. Reading and writing in a heritage context can also have psychological benefits.

Call for Contributions

We are looking for proposals from people working on creative, innovative or out-off-the-box projects on the strands outlined above in a research or operational capacity that can contribute to this conference.

You can contribute through formal presentations or workshops (see below). The contributions are to be given in English.


Papers are presented in 20 minutes in a conventional setting and in a PowerPoint- or PDF format. A session consist of 4 papers, with the possibility of a 10 minute question and discussion period at the end of each session.


Workshops offer a practical, hands-on demonstration or training in a particular method or aspect of interventions with cultural heritage collections. Workshops are given during a single session of 90 minutes.
To make a proposal please send before 1 February 2020 a short outline (maximum 150 words) of your proposed presentation or workshop to together with details of your name and organisation. Please refer to the strand (see above) in which you want to make a contribution.

Program Committee

  • Bart De Nil, chair (FARO)
  • Alexander Vander Stichele (FARO)
  • Bart Marius (Museum Dr. Guislain)
  • Bruce Davenport (Newcastle University)
  • Claire Wellesley-Smith (Open University)
  • Simon Bequoye (Iedereen Leest)
  • Tom Vansteenkiste (Recovery Academy Antwerp)
  • Thomas Kador (University College London)
  • Zoë Brown (Tyne and Wear Archives & Museums)

This conference is organised by FARO the Flemish interface centre for cultural heritage, Museum Dr. Guislain and Iedereen Leest

Praktische info

Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent

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