Katie O’Donoghue
Relations with objects

My background in Fine Art & Design and a masters in Art Psychotherapy aids in the conduct of the research project, facilitating object handling, interview sessions with patients undergoing treatment for cancer. The study ‘Developing holistic-participatory interventions to enhance well-being and recovery’, is a four-part, qualitative, ethnographic study that explores heritage objects as a means of supporting the well-being of individuals affected by cancer.

The title ‘Relations with objects’ identifies the core research concerns and is inspired by psychodynamic theory i.e. object relations theory. The project is informed by the research of Lanceley (2011), Butler (2017) and Rowlands (2016), examining both collective heritage (museum objects) and personal heritage objects (heirlooms, personal and lucky objects) as a means through which patients can express and explore their own narratives. People with cancer may often feel vulnerable and experience many dficult emotions, including fear and anxiety. Different ways to support the emotional and mental health of patients are needed.

Previous research with heritage objects has taken place in hospital settings where the objects were museum objects with age value. Patients found that handling these objects and talking with a profes- sional about them provided a welcome distraction from the routines of hospital and also helped them talk about the personal impact of their cancer illness. The objects utilized may stand in stark contrast to the ‘object world’ of the chemotherapy treatment suite with its intravenous uid stands, metal treatment trolleys and medical equipment.

The study is exploring participants’ relationship to these ‘object worlds’ and investigating if and how the heritage and personal objects may therapeutically breach the day-by-day ow of time during chemotherapy administration along the patients’ 6–8 month chemotherapy treatment trajectory. Results from the study will inform the development of a supportive treatment, which may utilize both heritage and personal objects, to enhance well-being and resilience during chemotherapy treatment.

Katie O’Donoghue

I am a PhD based at the University College London, UK. I have a Masters in Art Psychotherapy and many years of experience working in the health sector. My undergraduate degree in Fine Art and Design inspired a process of my own personal heritage research which I incorporated into my art works. My PhD project is titled ‘Relations with Objects – Developing holistic-participatory interventions to enhance wellbeing and recovery in patients undergoing treatment for cancer’. This is a four part, qualitative, ethnographic study that explores critical heritage as a means of supporting the wellbeing of individuals affected by cancer.The title ‘Relations with objects’ is important in identifying the core research concerns and is inspired by psychodynamic theory i.e. object relations theory. Melanie Klein first suggested that the way people relate to others and situations in their adult lives is shaped by relations with family experiences during infancy. Memories and images of people and events turn into objects in the unconscious mind that the “self” carries into adulthood, and which are then drawn upon by the unconscious mind as a template for social relationships and interactions in the present (Klein, 1932).