Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Working with Dementia

Museums Association (UK), Dementia Kit, 14 October 2015

iRemember_launch TMAG

Tasmanian Museum and Gallery, contents of iRemember Memory Case.

Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery has launched a dementia toolkit for small to medium sized museums based on a research project it undertook with the Alzheimer’s Society in West Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University.

The two-year project, which was a finalist in the 2015 Dementia Friendly Awards, looked at the effects of object handling on the wellbeing of people with early to mid-stage dementia. 

The research found that there were marked and measurable increases in wellbeing after people took part in the object handling. 

The toolkit aims to support museums of all sizes that want to develop similar projects. It includes tips on training staff to be dementia friendly, choosing objects and evaluation.

“The project was about doing something that museums excel at – sharing our fantastic collections and stories – but in a dementia-aware way,” said Jeremy Kimmel, Tunbridge Wells Museum’s audience development officer.

“This model of working costs very little money and can be used by anyone, from a small museum with no or just one paid member of staff to a national museum.”

Paul Camic, a professor of psychology and public health at Canterbury Christ Church University, said the Tunbridge Wells Museum project is different to a lot of other dementia work undertaken by museums because it is not focused on reminiscence.

“Feedback I’ve had [from carers] is that they don’t just want reminiscence because it reminds the person of what they have lost,” he said.

The research element of the project measured wellbeing before and after each museum object handling session using a five-point visual analogue scale accessing whether people felt: well; happy; interested; confident; and optimistic.

“The results showed statistically significant improvement in overall wellbeing across total wellbeing scores and on each subscale after the one hour sessions,” Camic said. “The sessions were also shown to be effective across genders and in early and mid-stages of dementia, with an overall higher level of wellbeing in early as opposed to mid-stage dementia.”

Download the dementia toolkit

Here are links to some of the dementia projects run by CAMD Members in Australia and New Zealand:

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Mr Brian Oldman, South Australian Museum PO Box 234 Adelaide, South Australia 5001 Australia, © CAMD 2022
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