By Kenn Taylor
Sir John Soane’s Museum in London is the former home of architect John Soane, and has been largely unchanged since his death in 1837.
The Soane has developed links with the older people’s reminiscence group at the nearby Millman Street Resource Centre. However, with the museum’s history and collection dating far beyond living memory, using reminiscence as an engagement tool seemed problematic.
One project that worked around this was Our Changing Neighbourhood. Reminiscence sessions about the local area selected different places that were important to members of the group. The museum then sourced maps and images of these places at different times in history.
In later sessions we looked at how these places had changed over two centuries and then worked with an artist to print some of the images we had found onto calico along with people’s own personal memories of the sites. These were then attached to our large map to show their locations.
The project worked well by connecting people’s memories to wider periods of history. The project was delivered over four sessions. In hindsight one or two more may have been preferable so the participants could have had more time to work on their artwork, especially due to the mobility difficulties of some group members.
The artwork that was created will now be used as a resource by the museum to undertake sessions with other older people in the local area to encourage their own reminiscences about their changing neighbourhood.
This piece appeared in the July 2014 edition of Museum Practice.