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Monday 21st January, 11am-12.30pm-Observing and meeting with InMind ( Art, coffee and conversation sessions for people living with dementia)

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Picadilly, London. W1J OBD

This session started with an introduction, then the workshop leader asked questions about the painting 'Tea in the Studio' by Arthur George Walker. The leader had deliberately  covered up the title and artists name.she would ask what an object was in the painting and ask people to describe the objects. questions like 'when sculptures are outside what are they called?''what is another word for torso'? there was a lot of recalling , repeating phrases and pauses to let people think of the words.She also gave handouts of the painting and close ups of the sculptures. There was a lot of focus on the sculpture at the back  and debate about whether it was a man or a women, it turned out to be Dame Louise Aldridge Brookes, the first female surgeon in the uk. So there was  history to be reminded of as well.Then they talked about the tea and the leader produced a tea cup and handed around loose tea leaves to smell and a linen cloth to touch so all the senses were activated.

The session was cleverly thought out and I will definitely  be using these methods when I go into the care home to work with the residents there.

I also spoke with a lady who works in research for Dementia and works in Southfields, so I will be in contact with her.

An Investigation into how memory is recalled through daily objects from the last 50 years  in the care home setting in 2019.


Aim of Project

The aim of this project was to start conversations about collective memories in the care home environment using common household objects from the 1970s as a trigger.


In the 1920s Maurice Halbwachs talked about how daily objects ‘stand about us a mute and motionless society.’(F Alcan,1925) it is the interpretation that people place onto the objects that give their life meaning as a society by offering a cohesive permanence. 


Halbwach’s reasoning for why groups stay together  even if the  group moves house or towns  and does not recognise their new surroundings is that they  find common ground in their collective memories of objects thus offering them stability. 

I was moved when he wrote ‘Even after the priests and nuns from port Royal were expelled, nothing was really affected so long as the buildings of the abbey stood and those who remembered hadn;t died.


My research is  an investigation into how  having  these conversations using the objects highlights their  collective memories which in turn makes the group more cohesive. I also  recorded these findings to enable the younger generation to access them.

 The Barbican, London is  doing this with their recent  exhibition ‘Unclaimed’ by  The Liminal Space (11 Feb—3 May 2019) taking research from  University College, London, The Centre for Aging better and interviews from the aging population, this exhibition shows everyday objects from older peoples lives over their life time, alongside the owners stories , this reflection on their lives highlights the modern ageing experience. 



I  delivered  three workshops  in the Dementia unit at St Luke’s care home, Reading.  


  • 1st workshop 1st Feb, 2.45pm -3.45pm 

For the 1stworkshop  I took along 2 memory boxes , the first a Reading Borough Council memory box with shopping items  the 1970s:.

The 2nd box was my own collection of  objects which were donated from the public circa 1970  measuring jug, screw driver, jelly mould,  tobacco tin, sugar tin.


  • 2nd workshop 11th Feb 2.45-3.45pm

For the 2ndworkshop I took along just the found objects as the first session I felt there were too many objects to focus on.


April 2019

 screen printed the photographs of the objects and made prints  on silk, calico and muslin to show how memories can be vague or strong. I then made these images into bunting.


  • 3rd workshop 10th May 2019 11am 

 As in my last 2 visits I  handed  out the objects again and discussed them. Then I passed around the bunting.


Background Additional Research  

  •  Attended a reminiscence workshop on the 11th March at Reading Museum 

  • Attended a Dementia art session ant the Royal Academy on the 21stJanuary 




Future development 


 The bunting will  be displayed at Museum of English Rural life during Dementia week ( 20-25 May 2019) 

  • To approach institutions and art galleries with a view to displaying the finished art work

  • To apply for funding to develop the idea further.








Out of the all the workshops the most successful one in bringing out conversations around the objects was the 3rd workshop on the 11th May , this could have been down to a few factors

  • By passing around the bunting this helped the residents to feel joined together and part of the activity in a way that was missing in the previous workshops when the objects were handled more individually. 

  • The workshop also had a new member,  who was the most confident, this really made the group dynamic  different from the previous workshops 

  • The session was in the morning whereas the others were in the afternoon, this could have played a part in how alert they were.

  • People with dementia can dip in and out of it sometimes within seconds making communication unpredictable. 


All 3 groups had a similar gender make up, around 10 women and 1 or 2 men and all the residents were white British.

 This project demonstrated that  objects facilitated reminiscences in the care home setting of St Luke’s care home.

This  brought the group closer together through their collective  societal memory. I think using the bunting as a prop with the objects printed also enabled them to feel part of the group.


Halbwachs,Maurice.’Les cadres sociaux de la memoire.Les Travaux de L’Annee Sociologique( Paris:F.Alcan, 1925):trans.Lewsi A.Coser, On Collective Memory.( Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1992)

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