Between July 2020 and June 2021, IWM’s War and Conflict Subject Specialist Network (WCSSN) led a project called Connecting, sharing, learning: sustaining relationships between collections and older communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was kindly supported by The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, delivered by the Museums Association.
We reached over 600 people aged 70 and above, both in their own homes and within care settings.
Project Partners

2 project groups, made up of WCSSN members and external partners.



This project responded to an increased need and desire, evidenced by WCSSN members, to support people aged 70 and over – both those living at home and those in residential care – through the COVID-19 pandemic. IWM worked with two groups of WCSSN members to pilot a programme which enables organisations to trial new methods of collection-based engagement with older communities across the UK, with long-term benefits for audiences and organisations.

To find out more about the needs of our audiences, we conducted some initial consultation via Age Exchange, Barchester Care and AgeUK. We worked with two project groups drawn from the WCSSN; the first from July - December 2020 focussed on the topic of the Battle of Britain and the summer of 1940, and the second from January - June 2021 looked at the theme of Women, War and Peace (with particular emphasis on the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Greenham Common Peace Camp). A steering group was also recruited to share their expertise and advice throughout both parts of the project.

Each project group member provided digital assets which were collated into CDs, DVDs and activity booklets, and in total 600 printed copies were distributed throughout the UK, from Dumfries and Galloway to Cornwall. The project group also delivered 11 short Zoom sessions with care homes on the two themes, which included talks, quizzes and interactive crosswords.

Aims and Impacts

  • Connecting

    We aimed to bring together collections, communities and organisations through digital technology. It was the first experience of digital outreach for many members of the project group, and evaluation has shown that it has been extremely rewarding for both the partners and participants.

    “I thoroughly enjoyed myself and found it all very interesting – how marvellous that all of this came to us. I am very thankful!” Care home resident

  • Sharing

    We intended to proactively share collections with audiences, despite barriers to engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. This project has directly supported community wellbeing, and provided opportunities for reminiscence and discussion between older people and their carers.

    Our day centre clients were very open about their own experiences, and I learned a lot of things about them that I didn't already know.” Care provider

  • Learning

    This project was designed to enable others, build confidence and boost connectivity between collections and audiences in new ways. The project enabled innovation, building a more networked and resilient cultural sector. It has challenged our ideas about collections practice, by introducing new models of audience engagement that can be shared with the WCSSN, as a legacy of the project.

    “It made me think about our collections differently.” Project partner

Participants watching a presentation at Melbourn Springscare home

Featured Resources

Second World War

In 2020 we marked the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. IWM worked with our project partners to share items from our Second World War collections. We put together short films and an activity booklet looking at what life was like in 1940 for men, women, children and even animals!

Women, War and Peace

In 2021 we mark the 40th anniversary of the creation of the women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common. IWM worked with our project partners to share stories of Women, War and Peace from the First World War to today - including an activity booklet, historical timeline, Story Cards and a podcast.


IWM would like to thank The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, delivered by the Museums Association, for supporting this project. We are very grateful to all our project partners for your wonderful contributions, and a special thanks to our audiences and carers for your participation and enthusiasm.


•Age Exchange

•AgeUK Manchester

•Archives and Cornish Studies Service, Kresen Kernow

•Barchester Healthcare

•Believe in Me CIC

•Bodmin Keep, Cornwall’s Army Museum

•Celia Oultram-Turner

•Claire Mead

•Cold War Conversations

•Devil’s Porridge Museum

•Digital Drama

•East Grinstead Museum

•Greenham Control Tower

•Hastings Digital Museum

•Laurence Maidment-Blundell

•RAF Museum

•Refugees in Rhyl

•Surrey Heritage

•Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

•U3A Portsmouth

•University of Derby

•University of Manchester

•Women's Community Activism Project, University of Portsmouth (archived at Portsmouth City Library)

•Worcestershire Regiment Museum

•Working Class Movement Library

  • Esmee Fairbairn Logo

    With thanks to the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund