Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG)

Open minds

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Open Minds education programme at Harewood House, near Leeds, worked with young people aged from 7-18 years to introduce new audiences to Harewood and to promote it as a place for inspiration and creativity.


Open Minds ran from 2000-2003. The aim of the programme was to develop Harewood House as a rich learning resource, a place for inspiration and creativity, to change the public perception of Harewood as a place of infinite educational possibility and to develop Harewood as a vital educational resource for the region.

Aims and objectives

RCMG was commissioned to evaluate the programme so that the findings might inform future education and learning developments by Harewood House Trust.  The evaluation considered three major areas:

  • Learning processes
  • Audience development
  • Conclusions and recommendations.

The Generic Learning Outcomes, developed by RCMG and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) as part of Inspiring Learning for All, were used to present the learning outcomes of participants in the Open Minds project. The research also looked at how effective the programme has been in meeting social inclusion agendas. Recommendations were made based on the conclusions of the project and serve to place Open Minds within a national context of work with young people in formal education.

Key findings

Over the three years at Harewood, a total of 3,552 children and 457 adults benefited from the Open Minds programme. Open Minds used the inspiration from the collections, artworks, House, landscape, gardens and history to give participants a unique experience in order to increase their creativity, wonder and enthusiasm for subjects as diverse as environmental science, art, creative writing and music. Critical to its success was the unique environment at Harewood, which offers teachers a managed environment for students to explore but also for many students from the urban areas around Harewood, it offers a glimpse of a different world. Evidence from the questionnaires completed by teachers and students in 2002, and the interviews with teachers and students in 2003, captured a range of positive learning outcomes and experiences that result from their involvement in the Open Minds programme.

However, although the workshops offered were highly innovative the concentration on small, specialist-led workshops may also have potentially limited their appeal to a wider audience and the research identified a need to develop core programmes that appeal to wider audiences. There was also a need to consult more proactively with schools to ensure that their needs were being met at Harewood.


Open Minds: Evaluation of the Harewood House Trust Heritage Lottery Fund Education Project (2004) (PDF, 1148kb)

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