HumanKind at Calke Abbey

HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

To mark 200 years since the death of Henry Harpur, 'The Isolated Baronet', Calke Abbey is delving deeper into its own history of isolation. HumanKind, a new immersive exhibition at Calke, explores new stories of isolation and loneliness, kindness and compassion, past and present.

What's the story behind HumanKind?

For more than thirty years, the story of Calke Abbey and its significance has been built around the tale of a reclusive and socially-isolated family who guarded the estate from modern life and lived eccentric, disconnected lives. Today, as awareness grows of the enormous challenges posed by loneliness and the harmful impact of social isolation on more and more lives, we are looking afresh at Calke’s past, reassessing the stories told about this place and exploring their potential to foster more, and more meaningful, contemporary human connections.

" 92% of us find it difficult to tell others they are lonely. "
- Campaign to End Loneliness

Recent research has shed new light on the lives of the people who lived at Calke. This has revealed powerful, rich and sometimes surprising stories of love, compassion and kindness, rooted in complex life experiences and events, alongside the more familiar ones of isolation and disconnection.

Spanning more than 200 years, these are stories that many of us would recognise today. The people who lived at Calke needed one another and took care of one other. Their routes out of difficulty were always aided by others – by humankind and human kindness. 

Immersed in HumanKind
Visitors explore HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire
Immersed in HumanKind

In 2019, a year that marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Harpur, 'The Isolated Baronet', we began exploring this wider and richer history of Calke in exciting new ways.

HumanKind uses these new stories and insights to challenge the stigma that surrounds loneliness and social isolation, to get people talking about this pressing social issue, to foster human interaction and connection and, in true Calke tradition, to encourage small acts of kindness.

HumanKind is a research-led collaboration between the National Trust and the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester.

Visitors explore HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Where to find HumanKind at Calke Abbey

Step into an immersive exhibition, explore our outdoor installations and find inspiration at HumanKind themed events. Find out what you can see and do here.