What was the impact of the Museum Experiments? Each took a very different approach to the process of connecting participants to nature and natural heritage collections, using artists, creative writers and practitioners, and external partners, as well as curators, engagement and front of house staff from the 6 museums. Participants, staff and creative practitioners shared their experiences with us, some keeping reflective journals throughout their engagement journey.

The experiments enabled participants to access, and become interested, in natural heritage collections in ways they had not previously imagined. These ‘unexpected encounters’ created new, surprising and fascinating encounters with nature and natural heritage collections that sparked their interest and curiosity. Coming into close contact with the wonders and complexities of nature, including things that were everyday and familiar, stimulated further interest and questions, and provided inspiration for creative activities.

This short film captures what Encountering the Unexpected meant to the participants and artists involved.

Peoples’ experiences of taking part in the experiments also helped us to understand from their perspective what it means to live and age well. Living in the moment, connecting with people and the natural world, keeping actively engaged, and having meaning and purpose in life are all important. The diversity of peoples’ experiences also shatter conventional stereotypes of ageing and older people, opening up new ways for museums to work with older audiences now and in the future.

Find out more about the impact of the experiments below. Full references and exploration of the themes can be found in the Unexpected Encounters publication.