Making the connection between natural heritage collections, nature, and living and ageing well was at the heart of Encountering the Unexpected. Engaging people in nature is not only critical to developing or strengthening pro-environmental attitudes and associated behaviours, there is growing evidence of the benefits of contact with nature for people’s health and wellbeing. However, although many older people would benefit from contact with nature, they are one of the social groups according to Natural England who are less likely to visit the outdoors.

Natural heritage collections have great potential. These can introduce us to the complexity and diversity of life on earth, help us to understand our place in the world and enable us to explore current and future issues, such as our impact on the natural world.

However, this requires a radical shift in the way in which natural heritage collections tend to be understood and used with audiences. Traditional scientific, didactic approaches create challenges for engagement and use with a range of audiences, including older people. How can we revitalise natural heritage collections for living and ageing well by connecting collections with nature?

Find out more about natural heritage collections below. Full references can be found in the Unexpected Encounters publication.