‘It’s OK to be closed’: Harnessing the power of nature, enhancing resilience and learning lessons from the literary heritage sector

David Rudrum, Helen Williams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Across the UK there are over seventy museums in writers’ homes and birthplaces open to the public. These include world class tourist destinations as well as underloved gems. All were profoundly impacted by COVID-19, in ways unique to the literary heritage sector. This chapter draws from the UKRI-AHRC Covid-19 Rapid Response project, ‘UK Literary Heritage Sites and Covid-19: Measuring Impact, Enhancing Resilience, and Learning Lessons’. It describes the efforts of heritage practitioners from the UK’s literary house sector in responding to COVID-19 and in finding new ways for the public to access English literature at a time when it was never more in demand. Lockdowns and furloughs brought many changes in our behavioural patterns, including a reconnection with the importance of nature, brought about by stringent COVID-19-related restrictions, which curtailed the time we could spend outside. Simultaneously, there was an upsurge in the public’s appetite for reading – especially of longer, more demanding literature. Seemingly, these two trends were unrelated, since reading is often an indoor pursuit. However, as this article will demonstrate, UK literary heritage sites repeatedly found creative ways to connect them, with a view to mutually enhancing the benefits of both for health and wellbeing. We have long known that nature and exercise have positive impacts on health and wellbeing, and that reading literature can too, but COVID-19 lockdowns led many writers’ house museums to seek out innovative ways of combining the benefits of both, indicating a positive direction for the literary heritage sector to take in moving on from the pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreative approaches to wellbeing
Subtitle of host publicationThe pandemic and beyond
EditorsKaren Gray, Victoria Tischler
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781526172600
ISBN (Print)9781526172594
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2024

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