Touching Memory is one of ten exciting arts projects that forms part of the Hearts, Hands and Minds art, design and activity strategy which NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde commissioned Wide Open to develop and deliver. Wide Open are a creative organisation that works with communities to create public spaces and buildings that promote health, happiness and wellbeing.
Touching Memory explores the everyday life of people living in Inverclyde from the 1950’s – 1980’s. 54 pupils from Ardgowan Primary school worked with curators from the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, artists from Greenock based Rig Arts and NHS healthcare workers to create 12 memory boxes – a handling collection of objects for use in memory work with adults with severe complex dementia needs in ORCHARD VIEW a new Inverclyde Mental Health Continuing Care Facility.
Touching Memory has had a far deeper and wider impact than anticipated, opening up new ideas, skills, ways of thinking and new perceptions of the world by children and adults involved.
Ardgowan Primary School fully embraced the project. School staff quickly saw that it struck a chord with participants. The partnership with the McLean Museum and Rig Arts inspired pupils, who brought their enthusiasm back into the classroom which quickly sent ripples across the entire school. Teaching staff identified that dementia resonated with participants, some on a personal level. This combined with learning about a recent heritage that older family members could recount and recall offered wider inter-generational learning opportunities, sharing of information and discovery.
A number of pupils shared with peers and staff that they had relatives living with dementia. The project created a safe environment for them to share anxieties and help children understand that their family weren’t alone in what they were experiencing. Alzheimers Scotland delivered ‘Dementia Friend’ training which helped pupils understand how people with dementia see the world, and the importance of colour, touch and smell to them. This really helped pupils understand the benefits their handling boxes would have with recollection and memory work that NHS staff do with patients.
One pupil discovered that her grandmother, a dementia sufferer, responded and interacted to her reading some of the research about the 1950’s - 1980’s. This developed further with the young girl identifying books and stories from the library that she then read to her. This was a moving and pivotal moment for the girl and her family, enabling them to discover through a heritage and creative arts project, a new way to maintain a relationship with the grandmother.
So inspired was the head-teacher, that she put actions into place for the entire school to become a ‘dementia friend’ with all staff and pupils undertaking Alzheimers Scotland training. The school chose a dementia organisation as its charity of the year and have raised thousands of pounds through a wide range of extra-curricular activity.
The 54 pupils who took part in Touching Memory learnt about the everyday life of their parents and grandparents generations, fostering a new found respect and an interest in the immediate past, and opening doors to new interests and continued learning. The partnership with the McLean Museum enabled pupils to discover a very particular local heritage about Greenock, once the export capital of Scotland, which might otherwise have gone un-noticed. The pupils findings have been collected, digitised, interpreted, displayed and preserved online and through the 12 memory boxes, which now form an invaluable tool for occupational therapists to use for important memory work with patients at Orchard View - the new £6.5m Adult & Older Peoples Continuing Care Bed Facility designed by award-winning architects Norr which is due to be completed in July 2017.
The completed memory boxes were exhibited at the Hearts, Hands and Minds exhibition at the Beacon Arts Centre which formed part of the 2016 Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.
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