Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, Canterbury Christ Church University
Our project ‘More than Reminiscence’ came about thanks to the work being undertaken by Dr Paul Camic, Professor of Psychology and Public Health, Research Director the Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University. His goal was to show how object handling at a museum could improve the general wellbeing of those living with dementia. Paul approached the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery to get involved in the project, and the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Society (AS) was contacted to be involved in the project. The local AS provided essential awareness training for museum staff, and through this the question which was core to the project was asked: Why do museums focus on reminiscence when working with people suffering from loss of memory?
The More than Reminiscence project focused on new learning, playing on the inherent human curiosity which we all have to not only grab the interests of those involved, but to increase their wellbeing by giving them the immediate rush of having learned something new. Over the course of two years, different groups of individuals living with Dementia at different stages engaged with the museum (both on site and off) and handled the ‘weird and wonderful’ of the collection. Before and after each session, the group’s wellbeing was measured by Dr Camic to gauge whether feelings of wellbeing had increased immediately and over time. This evaluation showed that not only did it increase their immediate feeling of wellbeing, but had real increases over time. Handling real objects and learning new things in a museum setting was helping people living with dementia to feel better about themselves and their lives.
To download the toolkit for yourself, please visit: http://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1150803