The Memory Archives 2020: Sensory Boxes

Introduction to the Memory Archives

The 2019 Memory Archives was an innovative approach to working with BAME elders living with dementia, through a multi-disciplinary event celebrating African Caribbean cultural heritage. This involved an accessible, multi-sensory programme curated around archives of significance to the African Caribbean community, used as a reminiscence tool to address the experiences of diaspora and cultural dislocation. The event comprised visual art, music, participatory workshops, curated food and interactive archives – including sound and handling material – and attracted elders from BAME care homes across London, along with their families and support workers.

Like its previous instalment, the 2020 Memory Archives aims to address the lack of culturally-specific dementia care provision for BAME communities, and increase access to heritage for underrepresented audiences.


What is different about the 2020 Memory Archives?

This years’ Memory Archives project is responsive to the public health situation around Covid-19, and the increased risk to our target audience, which is elderly and therefore vulnerable. While the programme was originally scheduled as an event on the 13th June, projections that the public health risk will continue if not peak over the summer has made it necessary to postpone and/ or reconceptualise the project. We believe the project has taken on a new importance because our target group is most likely to be affected by the self-isolation measures being taken.

What’s in the Sensory Boxes

The Memory Archives: Sensory Boxes will literally ‘re-package’ the content of the 2020 programme through curated boxes of interactive, multi-sensory and archival material that can be delivered directly to BAME care homes across London. The box will contain a media player, games, facsimile documents, art works and multi-sensory material. The archival material will be sourced from various collections including: London Metropolitan Archives, British Library, Guildhall Art Gallery the Barbican Library and the British Film Institute.

The motivation behind this approach is to provide a way for the programme to be remotely and virtually accessed by our audience, reducing the health risks of both attending and travelling to a public event.

At a time when people are being advised to self-isolate, there is simultaneously a crisis of loneliness, particularly for those over the age of 75 who are cut off from society – a situation that also has serious effects on health and wellbeing. Whilst still responding to the necessary safeguarding measures around COVID-19, the Memory Archives: Sensory Boxes would enable us to deliver our programme, instead of cancelling or significantly postponing an important opportunity to engage with our vulnerable target audience. It would also allow us to reach care homes further afield, previously restricted due to distance and lack of transport provision.

We are grateful to the City of London Central Grants Programme ‘Inspiring London through Culture’ for their generous support of this programme.

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