Portfolio > Sector > Creative and cultural

Get into Heritage 2017-18

Get into Heritage (GiH) is a partnership with Wakehurst Place, the National Trust at Birling Gap, and Weald and Downland Living Museum. The project has increased access for people with learning disabilities to heritage sites through developing creative strategies to help people connect with each site.

The activity has been led by artist, Anne Colvin, with staff from each of the partner organisations. It forms part of our Arts Connect programme for learning disabled adults.


  • To open up heritage sites to people with learning disabilities and their carers, building confidence and enthusiasm to support future visits
  • To build skills with staff and volunteers at each site to support ongoing relationships and provision for learning disabled adults
  • To share the learning from the project through resources, dissemination at events targeted at the heritage and social care sector

Who was involved?

  • Artist: Anne Colvin
  • Staff and volunteers at each site
  • Culture Shift staff
  • Groups and individuals local to each site

What happened?

Each GiH programme ran for 5 weeks with the groups meeting for a half-day each week. The programmes were structured around exploring different aspects of a site, finding out about the history and the natural heritage. The guiding principle of each session was to walk, talk and make. The groups took photos, made prints, drawings and maps. At each site we benefited from staff sharing their knowledge and expertise and offering special activities such as using microscopes at the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst, learning about bug collecting and conservation at Birling Gap, and breadmaking and basket making at Weald and Downland Living Museum. Each participant made a souvenir scrap book.

This work has been shared at two Get Connected events in Chichester and Haywards Heath and with the Sussex and Surrey Museum Learning Network.

Wakehurst Place case study

Birling Gap case study

Weald and Downland Living Museum case study

Outcomes for heritage partners

Heritage partners have benefited from working with a group over an extended period, offering deeper engagement and learning.

[We valued] getting to know the group. We learnt a lot through working with them over a longer period. We have SEN groups here but just for 1 day. Our focus is making sure they get from ‘a to b’. Over weeks you can develop relationships, understand more about each person.


We have been able to work out what is practical and possible with a mixed ability group and realising the opportunity we have to make everyone’s visit special.

Birling Gap

[It’s been] great in terms of potential creative activities & how successful they were/logistical awareness. We thought that the slow reveal of the museum was a really positive approach – discover a bit more week on week.

Weald and Downland

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Outcomes for participants

Meeting people: this has been a high point for everyone, meeting new people on the programme and the people involved in delivering the programme.

It’s nice to meet new people, it makes a change. We prefer doing things in a group, it’s better than being on your own.

Participants at Birling Gap

Engaging with history and place: At each site, the groups have remembered significant amounts about the history and special qualities of each site.

Some have loved the history of Birling Gap – the lighthouse, dates and importance of preserving this special place.

Staff, Birling Gap

I think making the pictures and recapping on what they have done in previous weeks, that morning was good.

Carer, Birling Gap programme

They enjoyed learning about the countryside and the history behind it.

Carer, Birling Gap programme

The group was very interested in historical aspects of the museum and being able to compare with life in 2018.

Staff, Weald and Downland

Feedback from carers

Everything has been wonderful. Seeing people who are usually reserved and reticent to join in, participate.

Support worker, Hookstead

Very well organised group. Lots of interesting things to do, appropriate to the participants’ abilities, the enthusiasm of staff was infectious.

Support worker, Saxon Court

Longer term impacts

The National Trust’s ethos is looking after special places ‘Forever for everyone’. Being involved in projects like this make me proud to say that we’re holding the for everyone aspect of this. Everyone should have the opportunity to see how special this place is.

Birling Gap

It has been a really positive experience for me and for the museum. Weald and Downland is for everyone and it has been good to welcome the group for a period of belonging. It has helped me think of potential activities for similar group that will be coming in 2018.

Weald and Downland

I hope that this project will help convince managers at Wakehurst that we should be working with more groups like this as it’s evident that the participants and all staff/volunteers from Wakehurst saw the benefits.



Get into Heritage was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with support from Eastbourne Borough Council.