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Museum reaches out to older people with memory project

A scheme in Mansfield to encourage older people to engage with their local museum has been successfully piloted and the work is set to continue.

A survey carried out by Resilience Syndicate Interns funded by Arts Council England, revealed that one of the reasons that put off people from visiting their local museum was a lack of company.

The Resilience Syndicate project is a project designed by Culture Syndicates in partnership with 6 museums, which include Mansfield Museum, Rutland County Museum, British Horological Institute Museum, Kettering Manor House Museum, Bassetlaw Museum and Ayscoughfee Hall and Gardens. Culture Syndicates are a heritage and arts consultancy, based in Nottingham.

With this in mind, and to combat loneliness and isolation, which is often felt by older people, a project was devised to take the museum out to the community. It provided objects in loans boxes, which were taken to Poppy Fields, Mansfield District Council's extra care housing scheme.

The interns at Culture Syndicates, Anne-Marie Rooney, Emma Raymond and Siân Fox led two sessions in the communal hub at Poppy Fields.

The first was a Mystery Object Quiz, in which participants guessed the functions of a variety of unusual household objects from the last century.

The second session involved object handling on the theme of 'Saturday Night Out' with items such as a fur stole, pre-decimal coins and braces. Scent boxes were also used to evoke memories of Saturday nights, along with a 'Celebrity Higher or Lower' interactive game.

Tea and cake were provided at each session, where conversation and the sharing of memories was encouraged. Participants were then invited to attend Mansfield Museum's regular Reminiscence Tea Room events to continue their engagement with the museum.

Feedback from the first two sessions was overwhelmingly positive and far more people than expected attended the sessions, with an increase in numbers at the second session.

Mansfield Museum now intends to extend the project and Culture Syndicates will use it as a case study to support other cultural sites interested in similar outreach work.

Liz Weston, Curator of the Museum, said: "Taking the museum out to the residential site really helped us to reach a wider audience who may not be able to get to the town centre. This form of engagement can help combat the isolation many older people may feel. We are keen that the wider community will also be able to benefit from this approach."

Karen Burgess, Response Officer at Poppy Fields, added: "It was such a worthwhile project. Many of the residents here have dementia and stimulating their memories of days gone by is something that really can get them going and is so beneficial for them."

Cllr Dave Saunders, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: "It is good to see that once again our great, award-winning museum is leading the way when it comes to innovative ways to reach the public. Anything that can help our senior citizens feel less alone has got to be a good thing."

The Resilience Syndicate Project continues until March and looks forward to facilitating several other projects in museums across the East Midlands.

To find out more about what the museum is doing, visit the website.

Published on Monday 24 July 2017.

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