Guardian Public Services Award

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members of the Education and Communities team

The partnership between National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool Primary Care Trust (PCT) and mental health centre Mary Seacole House has been recognised for the Gateway to Active Living project at this year's Guardian Public Services Awards.

National Museums Liverpool won the Care Of Older People award for our work in making culture accessible to older people in the city. At the ceremony in London, host Jeremy Vine said: “The judges were impressed with the project for encouraging community engagement and for giving the 260 older people who visited the museum a sense of empowerment, confidence, new skills and pride.”

David Brindle, The Guardian’s Public Services Editor, said: “The Gateway to Active Living project was an innovative partnership which explored how culture could be used to improve the health and wellbeing of older people using reminiscence art and cultural references, and it is a very worthy winner.”

Gateway to Active Living ran from April 2009 to March 2010 and was set up to support the PCT's Healthy Living agenda. It delivered weekly events, using reminiscence art and cultural activities, to vulnerable people from Black Minority Ethnic communities aged 50 to 65. Members of the project were introduced to National Museums Liverpool sites through behind-the-scenes tours and talks from curators. The time and attention given to the group during these visits helped build their confidence and break down barriers. As one participant said: "I'd never gone to school so I'd never learned about museums. It was fabulous to go."

As part of the project some of the older people become so actively involved that they even donated their own possessions to our museum collections. Head of Communities Claire Benjamin hopes the impact of the project will last: "The legacy of the project for the museum is having a better understanding of how to engage with vulnerable older people. Sharing our learning with experienced healthcare and support workers who understand some of those issues has been beneficial for the museum, and equally the health workers can gain an insight into the therapeutic impact of culture."