Memories of Yesterday

2 May 2018
I recently delivered two museum engagement outreach sessions for Bendoncare in March and April. Brendoncare are a registered charity who focus on improving the quality of life for older people through their care homes, close care facilities and social clubs across the South of England. 

Visits were made to Winton Friendship Club at Winton YMCA and Haviland Springers Club, at St Georges Wellspring Centre, Boscombe. 
Each session started with a welcome, an introduction about MoDiP and the collection we hold here at AUB. The session had an overall theme of ‘Do You Remember’ using artefacts from the handling collection.

Blue constellation / celestial globe money box, MoDiP Handling Collection.

In order to engage members actively, the session was devised into short activities that allowed involvement from everyone within the group. The session began with the use of a blue constellation / celestial globe money box, as an aid for members to share where they were born. I started off by saying where I was born, Northampton, and then walked around the room to ask members individually where they were born to share with the group. This revealed that some members had lived all their lives in one place and others had lived in more than one location. 
To evoke memories, everyone was asked to think about a plastic artefact which they had used in the past or present and then write it down on a piece of paper. The pieces of paper were then collected up and placed into a plastic bowl. Pieces of paper were taken out of the bowl randomly and I then read the words written on the paper aloud. Members were asked who wrote the words down. In some cases more than one member wrote the same word. They were encouraged to share why they had thought of that specific artefact made of plastics and what it meant to them. It was fascinating to hear different stories about the same artefact. It revealed how these artefacts possessed meaning, which related to members remembering positive experiences from their past – which could be parallel or have a link to the way the brain processes emotional content. 
Ormond electric hairdryer used in 'guess the artefact', MoDiP Handling Collection. 
The session then moved on to an activity, ‘guess the artefact’. This required the use of one artefact from the handling collection, a different one for each session, which was placed into a Tyvek bag with a drawstring. The bag was passed around to each member. They were asked to feel the artefact from the outside of the bag, without opening the bag to look inside. This required members to use their sense of touch to make a connection regarding what the artefact was. They were asked to keep their guesses to themselves until everyone had taken their turn. I then gave a summary of the guesses to the whole group before revealing what the artefact was. Many members were able to identify what the artefact was. 
This activity demonstrated that artefacts are not solely recognisable by vision, as humans we are able to recognise familiar three-dimensional artefacts through touch. During touch you are exploring the shape, texture and weight of an artefact which you do not get from exploring by vision alone. Using touch activates both the cutaneous and the kinaesthetic senses.
Members of the Winton Friendship Club looking at yougurt pots.
The next part of the session involved an activity of passing around a variety of artefacts that members could relate to. It created conversations between them about experiences which had happened in the past, involving the use of the artefacts. Some of the artefacts used included soap boxes, a Crabtree Lincoln Bakelite light switch, Ormond electric hairdryer, Tupperware, Kodak Brownie reflex camera, butter dish, yougurt pots, tabacco pot and squeezy red tomato sauce bottle. To compliment the artefacts, visuals were sent round to recall memories and create conversation. Visuals used included advertisement of Tupperware, Tupperware parties, Kodax and Ormond electric hairdryer.
A member of the Haviland Springers Club engaging with a hairdyer. 
The session concluded with an evaluation asking members what they got out of the session with MoDiP, which plastic artefacts reminded them of something and why, along with any other comments they wished to make. 

  • Memories of years ago. 
  • Memories of yesterday. 
  • Good memories. 
  • Bringing back memories of childhood. 
  • Tobacco jar of my grandfather smoking a pipe and the smell of Tabacco. 
  • Reminder of some old plastics and Bakelite objects. 
  • Great fun. 
  • Well presented session!!
  • I am glad there is still plastic. What would you do without it. One of the best inventions! 
  • Found the session really interesting. Made me think of things I used to use. 
  • Shaving brush. Teaching my boys to shave for the first time. 
  • Bronwie Box camera, pictures of black and white of family. 
  • My husband had a soap dish which he kept first aid kit in when we went on holiday.

During my visit to Haviland Springers Club I had the opportunity to engage and listen to members about the benefits of attending social groups. One particular member caught my attention. They spoke about how memories and talking about the past stay with you and you don’t forget them, even if you don’t remember what you did the day before. They also went on to talk about the fact that the group offers a way of connecting with other older people. They explained that they didn’t go out much like the youth of today. 'I didn’t go out last night or last weekend so have nothing to talk about which I have done recently, but I can talk about the past.' 

These sessions presented an example of using artefacts to connect people together to talk about their past and how museum can change lives. 
Sarah Jane Stevens, AMA (Museum Engagement Officer)