Men labelled with learning disabilities have created a film and an exhibition related to their favourite collection items at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI),
The project, which is associated with Manchester mencap and a researcher from Manchester Metropolitan University, highlights the therapeutic benefits of museums and other arts institutions for disability groups during a time of proposed funding cuts and welfare reform.
Manpowered: A Men’s Group Challenging Disability is the first exhibition in MOSI’s new Community Exhibition Gallery, and features striking artwork, photographs, a cartoon strip, and museum collection items such as a 1910 miner’s lamp, early light bulbs, and a 1960s reel tape recorder.
The objects were chosen during handling sessions in MOSI’s Collections Centre.
The men attended regular sessions at MOSI, where they looked at historic objects and used these as triggers for discussion about their thoughts and feelings. They learnt new skills such as research, interviewing, filming and photography, and worked with art, craft and poetry to create the exhibition and film about their lives with learning disabilities.
The project led to many therapeutic benefits for members, including improved confidence, inspiration and new skills. One man rarely went out before he attended the sessions and was extremely shy, but is now a leading member of the group, while another has gone on to do a photography course.
The sessions helped the men to talk about the personal issues they had previously been too shy to discuss, such as their sexuality and childhood.
Project Leader Michael Richards said: “One of the main problems the men face is having the confidence to talk about the emotions and feelings affecting their mental and physical health, so a relaxed, comfortable and non-clinical setting is essential. The exciting museum environment has enabled the men to do this, for example by talking about childhood memories using items from the collections. The project has been very empowering and effective for the men involved and I believe this kind of community psychology in a stimulating environment like a museum could be an effective alternative to more expensive counselling and other individual-oriented services.”