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‘Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ project at Inverness Museum and Gallery celebrates year-long success

Health, Wealth, and Happiness Project at Inverness Museum and Gallery (photo by Ewen Wetherspoon)

Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG) is celebrating the success of their ‘Health, Wealth and Happiness’ project which explored the history of healthcare in the Highlands and experiences of the pandemic, as it is selected as a case study of good practice by Museums Galleries Scotland.

The project was funded by a Covid-19 Museum Development Fund grant from Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS).

The project culminated in an exhibition which opened at IMAG on April 15th 2022.  It was the first to be curated by the IMAG Collections Team in over a decade, featuring objects and artworks from the Museum’s own collection, as well as items on loan from over 30 individuals, groups, and museums across the region.

Key aims of the project included expanding the Museum’s medical collections, gaining experience of organising a major exhibition, building connections across the Highlands, and raising the public profile of the Museum.

Lucy Casot, Museums Galleries Scotland’s Chief Executive, said: “As the national development body for museums, we’re encouraging organisations to embrace collaborative approaches to their work.

“The ‘Health, Wealth and Happiness’ project is a superb example of a Museum teaming up with charities, businesses, and individuals to create exciting new opportunities which deliver real benefits to their communities.”

Thanks to successful collaboration with Inverness Botanic Gardens and local library services, 1,400 copies of the ‘Well Wishes’ wellbeing activity were distributed across the Highlands and more than 40 organisations took part.

Close communication with the National Library of Scotland also led to the high-profile loan of a rare medieval Gaelic medical manuscript.

By trialling different methods of building and maintaining partnerships, and by evaluating the outcomes of these collaborative efforts, IMAG and MGS were able to establish strong foundations for the success of future projects.

Kari Moodie, High Life Highland’s Curator at IMAG, added: “’Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ was a fantastic opportunity for IMAG to explore a subject of special significance to the region.

“The Highlands and Islands Medical Service (HIMS), launched in 1913, was the world’s first integrated public health service and is recognised today as a forerunner of the NHS.

“The project also gave us the chance to reflect on how the pandemic had affected every individual, organisation and business. We wanted to ensure a wide range of experiences were represented in our collection, for us all to look back on in the future, and for following generations to learn from.”

“Alongside the ‘Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ exhibition, we ran the ‘Well Wishes’ engagement project: a mindful craft activity based on the tradition of healing Clootie Wells.

“People across the Highlands contributed by making wishes on paper leaves and creating a cotton braid. These were displayed in the exhibition then naturally recycled. In total, 845 wishes have been composted at Inverness Botanic Gardens!

“This has now been delivered to the Highland Folk Museum, where a hazel tree will be planted in honour of the project and will be nourished by the compost. We’re sharing its progress in our newsletters and on our social media channels.”

Steve Walsh, High Life Highland’s Chief Executive, concluded: “Following the pandemic, recognising the importance of care workers, health care, and wellbeing, has never been more essential or timely and it is important for High Life Highland to have these topics be represented in public collections.

“High Life Highland is thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Museums Galleries Scotland to pull together the major temporary exhibition ‘Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ at IMAG, and looks forward to future partnerships.”