Art Gallery Interventions for People with Dementia

A wonderful project carried out by our colleagues in the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, Andrew Newman and Anna Goulding, involving artists-facilitators, art museums and galleries and people living with dementia in the North East of England. Aspects of this research will be further explored in their new project Dementia and Imagination (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council).

Art Gallery Interventions for People with Dementia from Hugh Sherlock on Vimeo.


Recent activities about and around Holding Memories

Since we held the two workshops we have a few things to report:

Maria Parsons wrote a short piece (with our input) for the Journal of Dementia Care (Jan/Feb Issue) outlining key points from the workshops and encouraging readers to find out about what their local museums might be doing in terms of memory boxes and reminiscence. This is now out and if anyone would like a copy, please contact: Sue Benson at: Maria also provided a link to the Culture and Wellbeing website and especially to ask everyone to complete the Creative Arts for Dementia survey:

Rhiannon met up with Alice Thwaite of Equal Arts to find out more about the work her organisation does and to hear about how arts organisations in the US are working with people with dementia (

After the second workshop, Rhiannon submitted a small-scale bid to AHRC with Dr Helen Chatterjee of UCL, author of the very interesting book, Touch in Museums. This bid was successful and the project is called: ‘Heritage, Health and Wellbeing – Mapping future priorities and potential’. The aim of this project is twofold: (1) to bring together heritage sector workers involved in delivering programmes which address health and wellbeing in order to map out UK and key overseas contributions, and (2) to formulate a health and wellbeing framework for the sector with robust evaluation and measurement criteria. The project was developed and will be led by Helen. Rhiannon’s involvement stems out of the contact we made through with the UCL team when Guy Noble presented at our Holding Memories workshops. It will involve 3 workshops in London, Manchester and Newcastle throughout 2011 and we are really looking forward to the opportunity to follow up some of the ideas sparked during our Holding Memories conversations. We hope to be able to post updates through the Holding Memories site.

Bruce Davenport has started a blog which discusses many of the issues we talked about during the Holding Memories workshops. See

If other people have news or reflections to share it would be great to hear it.

Starting at the end

While we are still working to digest the discussions from the last two workshops on Holding Memories, I thought that it would be a good idea to commit some of the personal reflections we discussed about in the last round-table discussion of the workshop series:

In the last session of the series we went around the room and we were asked to highlight a single idea or question that resonated with our thinking about using museum objects with older people and people with dementia. Here are the ideas that were voiced from around the tables (in no particular order):

  • Focus on the multisensory nature of the experience. Our emphasis should be on engaging all senses not just talking about objects. (Stuart)
  • How do multicultural communities fit with the museum object based activities, especially when there is lack of shared knowledge coming from different ethnicities and cultures? Should our goal be goal to trigger memories or to facilitate an altogether different experience? (Joanne)
  • Think outside the box, and take the opportunity to develop multiple approaches to the same object as a catalyst for conversation with different people. (Sandra)
  • It would be important to break down the elements of the experience for each person (social/sensory/etc.), as separate elements may require a different approach. This would open up the opportunity for interdisciplinary conversation/collaboration on the topic. For example see the Arts in Health Forum for an interdisciplinary approach. (Bruce)
  • More emphasis should be put on training. There are a lot of good practice/case studies: is there a space to develop some basic knowledge/guidelines, which would help people to start on the same page? This would contribute towards the sustainability of good practice. For example see the Ageing Artfully report, published by the Baring foundation in 2009. (Anna)
  • More emphasis should be put in creating a community that shares – this would allow us to share resources and knowledge. (Maria)
  • Carers should be on board in these initiatives as they are the people with the local knowledge. (Katie)
  • It is important to develop a holistic approach, in which the work of the museum facilitator will be supported by the carers before and after the visit, so they can keep the relationship going. (Michelle)
  • We need to understand better what happens when we touch objects. How does it work? How does object-mediated resonance take place? (Rhiannon)
  • People’s engagement with object in the course of an outreach session is ‘situated’. What are the resources that shape this situation in the context of people with dementia? Objects/people/digital stimuli? How can we reconfigure the situation to facilitate memory work? For an example of digitally mediated reminiscence work with people with dementia see CIRCA project. (Areti)

The conversation continues… Do these ideas resonate with your thinking?

Let us know!

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