Introduction to the Memory Archives
The 2019 Memory Archives was an innovative approach to working with Black 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 Black elders from care homes across London, along with their families and support workers.
Like its previous instalment, the 2021 Memory Archives aims to address the lack of culturally-specific dementia care provision for Black and other minoritized communities, and increase access to heritage for underrepresented audiences.
What is different about the 2021 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 vulnerable. While the programme was originally scheduled as an event on the 13th June, the Covid-19 pandemic 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 self-isolation measures.
The Memory Archives: Sensory Boxes will literally ‘re-package’ the content of the programme through curated boxes of interactive, multi-sensory and archival material that can be delivered directly to diverse care homes, day centres and sheltered accommodation across London.
The boxes contain new creative commissions by contemporary artist Larry Amponsah and fashion anthropologist, Ezinma Mbeledogu, alongside a media player and curated audio playlist, and a series of multi-sensory objects exploring African Caribbean cultural heritage. Accompanying the objects is a full-colour booklet with further resources, including artworks, archival photographs and QR access to online material. Visual and audio content has been sourced from various collections including the London Metropolitan Archives and the Guildhall Art Gallery.
The motivation behind new 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.
During the age of Coronavirus, 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.
Image: Untitled, Denzil Forrester, 1983 © Royal College of Art / Royal College of Art Collection. Copyright Denzil Forrester. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.