I run The Platinum Programme here at Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. The programme aims to engage people over the age of 55 with museum activities. This includes inviting people into our various venues via our Culture and Cake programme. This is a series of museum talks and tours about anything and everything – behind the scenes, exhibitions, demonstrations etc…. and after the sessions we all sit down for a cuppa, eat cake and discuss what we have learnt.
As well as inviting people into the museums I go out and about with ‘Inspiration boxes’ full of museum handling objects that can be taken into community centres and care homes to be used with the staff and residents. The boxes have different themes including: Childhood, Fashion, Holidays, Domestic, Leisure, Entertainment and Worklife. Each box also covers multiple decades and alongside objects we use different smells and sounds to trigger discussions too. Carers I have worked with have noted that the museum objects have improved their understanding and awareness of the individuals involved and that that discussions continue even after I have left.
I’ve just finished a session with people with visual impairments in Gateshead we compared old and new items – such as a modern day vacuum cleaner and a carpet beater(!), a flat iron and an electric iron and a nice old dial up telephone with a new mobile phone. It’s amazing how much conversation you can get with these things – it was a really nice session.
We are continuing to develop new themes and work closely with care home staff to identify what objects work well, and objects that work not so well. For example I love the old bus tickets and an old ticket for the ballroom inside Blackpool Tower, but the older people couldn’t really see them as they were way too small. Objects that always get people talking are things like old cigarette packets, records and domestic objects such as Tide and Omo.
As well as museum handling objects Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums create partnerships with care homes on art projects and facilitate visits to our venues. We have worked on simple crafts that are easy to do and good for group work. For example creating a mosaic or visiting our Seaside exhibition at South Shields.