Community Resilience and Recovery: The Restorative Museum and Heritage Sector Response to Covid-19’

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Covid-19 pandemic is a chronic crisis that has impacted all aspects of functioning, at individual, community, and societal levels. The qualitative individual and community narrative arising from the pandemic is constructing the knowledge base, informing practices and themes across the museums and heritage sector, as they meet individuals, groups, and communities. The pandemic has instigated deep reflection on the debate on the notion of individualism and communitarianism. The need for societal responses versus the neo-liberal focus on individual gain has caused deep fissures in the manner that we respond to it. Museums in Northern Ireland are closely linked to a community sector that has played a major role in social renewal already. This chapter details their role in supporting communities for re-emergence and rebirth post-Covid 19.

The impact of this sector in the move from conflict to reconciliation has illustrated an already evident role in community sustenance. However, debates in recent years about the role of Museums also illuminates their potential role as places of community renewal. Museums are places where these questions and issues can be interrogated and represented and thus it is useful to now consider the ways in which this might be approached.

Through the research project Museums, Crisis and Covid-19 (Ulster University) this chapter will consider emerging evidence of the role of the museum and heritage sector, heritage projects and institutions as places of narrating and reflecting on the trauma of the COVID period as well as meeting the therapeutic needs of recovery for both individuals and communities. This chapter considers the link between the recovery of museums and related link to recovery of communities as explored by (Samaroudi et al. 2020). Secondly, the chapter will consider theory from disaster management perspectives and strength-based approaches in articulating emerging practice considerations, offering an understanding of Covid -19 using crisis and trauma recovery and management theory. This chapter will discuss how such evidence offers a foundation for the museum sector in creating reflective spaces to support symptom mitigation measures and community recovery from Covid-19. These, too, can provide tools for the sector in responding to potential future crises, such as the impact of climate change and the rising cost of living.

Recent research has also identified the nature of projects that have already started to directly consider the needs of communities. For example, some projects have focused on the notion of self-care and the therapeutic dimensions of wellbeing (Nelson, 2020). A focus on wellbeing and mental health is also evident in projects such as ‘MindLab’ (French et al. 2020). At the centre of museums are collections. During the pandemic, museums in Northern Ireland have used collections, old and new, as a tool to

remain connected to the communities they are situated within. As we move through and on from the Covid-19 pandemic and look to the effects of future crises, we argue thatby using collections as a tool for community healing and reflection, museums can build new narratives for our communities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreative Approaches to Wellbeing
Subtitle of host publicationThe Pandemic and Beyond
EditorsVictoria Tischler, Karen Gray
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages19
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Publication series

NameThe Pandemic and Beyond
PublisherManchester University Press


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