Wednesday, 19 June 2013

around the world: a memory boxes tour

Photo Courtesy of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery

As part of our project 'Making Memories' I have been researching how other arts organisations and Museums & Art Galleries have been using Memory Boxes. Our brief is to devise creative activities for use with Memory Boxes, so it makes sense to learn from best practice from around the world. In no particular order here are some projects that stood out to me...

Chloe Meineck Music Memory Box invites people with dementia to interact with familiar objects chosen or handmade by the owner to represent friends, family and key memories. Each object triggers a specific piece of music to be played, stiring lost memories.

Curiosity Creative have been working with Flo-Culture on a iPad based digital storytelling and digital inclusion project called Memory Box. They collected 16 digital stories, all produced on iPads inspired by memories of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Little Boxes of Memories: Entelechy has partnered with Lewisham Hospital and the Museum of London to share memories of socially isolated 80 –100 year old Londoners. They devise ‘little boxes’ rummage boxes, fragrance boxes, mini-cinema boxes… that capture and retell memories. The Little Boxes of Memory were subsequently taken performed with audiences of pupils and teachers at special schools around London and Lewisham care homes.

Memory/Life Story Work Manual This project works with the NACWOLA women of Uganda, developed by Jonathan Morgan with the Memory Box Project, then developed into the Memory Action Projects. Its an amazing project, deeply moving and inspiring in turns.

‘Memory work was begun by a group of HIV positive mothers in Uganda who used memory books and boxes to help them disclose their positive status to their children, as well as to begin the process of future planning together.’

As they state on their website ‘This is not to say that memory boxes are only for HIV positive people or that HIV positive people who make them should mostly write about their HIV status, or that they should only be used to prepare for death. Many of the people we have worked with have used them to fight for life. Anyone who wants to work creatively with his or her story can make a memory box. One person, a parent and child, a whole family or a group can make the memory box. This manual will be useful for anyone who runs groups as part of their work.’

In Uganda the box was more or less any container in which to keep the memory book. In South Africa, memory boxes have become important objects in their own right. The 12 sides are like pages of a book, surfaces on to which things can be written, painted, drawn and stuck.  One example was made by AIDS orphan Pinky Zondi (16) containing snapshots of her mother, and older sister who both died of AIDS related infections. In a region where close to 40% of pregnant mothers test HIV positive and many children have to deal with loss, this is an attempt to deal with their psychosocial needs.

Much of the instruction is based around drawing such as “Idea 1: Draw a symbol or design a panel that expresses your past or where you come from. You might want to draw your clan symbol or your totem or any symbol that represents where you come from culturally or geographically. You might want to include some photos from your past. 

Then write a few words that can fit onto the same panel to explain your symbol or panel.”

Holding Memories:
Anna Goulding is a researcher looking at workshops in the Art museums and Galleries in North East England led by artist for people with dementia. Rather than the focus being on reminiscence, the Art work acts as stimulus for participants to create something new in an inventive way. The example in the film shows artist Clare Ford working with simple drama activities based on objects in the museum/gallery, and felt making.

Museums and Art Galleries

Up and down the country museums have their own Memory Box schemes, however I have only found one that suggests associated creative activity. If you know of others, please do me know.

Mansfield District Council
The House of Memories
Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Chelmsford Museum
Colchester+Ipswich Museums
Outside the Box Reading Museum.

Beamish Museum offer useful tips on running a reminiscence session and include a couple of simple creative ideas such as baking or making a rag rug.


An artists memory box

A very different take on the form of memory box is the artists memory box,  Sheryl Oring Collective Memory” was an interactive public performance. She posed the question “what would you like the world to remember about 9/11? To an audience in New York City on the 10th anniversary 2011. 

Published in 2012 in an addition of 10, each box contains 315 index cards with messages dictated during the Collective Memory performances. Passersby were invited to share their thoughts about what they would like the world to remember about the devastating events of 9/11

We would love to hear about any other examples of Memory Box use you might have from around the world. Thanks Lois

Photo Courtesy of Warrington Museum & Art Gallery

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