HumanKind at Calke Abbey

HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

To mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Harpur, 'The Isolated Baronet', this year at Calke Abbey we're exploring stories of loneliness and isolation, kindness and compassion, past and present. HumanKind, a new immersive exhibition at Calke, is open now.

Step into HumanKind, an immersive exhibition in the family apartments where you'll discover new stories about six characters from Calke's household. Outdoors, stumble across installations connected to HumanKind, as we bring Calke's stories to you.

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. 

Visitors exploring the new outdoor landscape rooms as part of HumanKind
HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire
Visitors exploring the new outdoor landscape rooms as part of HumanKind

In 2019 – marking the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Harpur, ‘The Isolated Baronet’ – we are 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.

HumanKind exhibition at National Trust Calke Abbey in Derbyshire

Six stories of compassion at Calke Abbey 

Meet the six members of Calke's household featured in HumanKind, and discover moments of kindness, compassion and connection.