Keeping in Mind – Dementia and Museums, Part Two

In December’s first ‘Dementia and Museums’ blog post I detailed the Visitor Services Team’s recent Alzheimer’s Australia training session; cutting-edge research by this charity has provided evidence that the undertaking of Montessouri-style activities (a learning method that focuses on ‘doing’ and being ‘engaged’), can improve brain activity and wellness in people living with dementia.

The expertise that was shared with us through this training now inspires and shapes our thinking and approach to the design of activities and resources for our ‘Museum Comes to You’ sessions aimed at older people, and in particular those with early-onset dementia. As time inches closer to next month’s Dementia Awareness Week (18-24 May 2014), it seemed apt to post an update regarding a new and innovative resource, developed after further consideration of how the Museum’s collections can help people to live well with dementia.

‘Treasure Box’ is a brand new activity-based set of resources which secured funding from the Arts Fund’s Treasure Plus scheme for initial development and piloting. Work began with Keith Sugden, Head of Numismatics at Manchester Museum back in September 2013; this was to source a range of coins that showcase the Museum’s renowned collection, whilst having the potential to inspire reflection, discussion, learning and reminiscence as part of a series of identification and matching activities.

Match to map ‘Treasure Box’ activity

Coins from around the world form part of a match-to-map or flag activity. Pre-decimal British coins are to be identified and matched to cards showing their value or key symbols. We are also fortunate enough to have access to a collection of Roman coins taken from the Alderley Edge Hoard; a reading activity puts the coins into local and historical context, explaining that the collection of 564 early 4th century Roman coins – found by pot-holers – constitute the first hard evidence of Roman mining at Alderley Edge. At the end of the reading activity there is an opportunity to see and hold some of these unique and locally-significant coins, which were previously held in the Museum’s stores after being on loan to Grosvenor Museum in Chester.

Coin from the Alderley Edge Hoard, 4th Century (Image: Alan Seabright)

Through initial piloting with care groups in different areas of Manchester and Salford, the resources scored very highly in evaluation discussions with those who undertook the activities with their carers in terms of enjoyment and engagement. Discussion questions, which feature throughout the activities along with the coins proved to be successful in creating points of reflection and reminiscence.

Over the coming months ‘Treasure Box’ will continue to be trialled, and ways are already being considered for extensions to the activities, such as sister resources or how elements of the activities can be “left behind” for groups to repeat after an initial visit. Everyone we visit via ‘Museum Comes to You’ is also given a warm invitation to visit  Manchester Museum, and to take part in further activities in order to experience the Museum’s exhibitions and collections on site.

To learn more about dementia and see how you can get involved with Dementia Awareness Week, visit the Alzheimer’s Society website:


3 thoughts on “Keeping in Mind – Dementia and Museums, Part Two

  1. Hi, I’m an MA student in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester. I’m currently researching museum-NHS collaboration in dementia programming for my dissertation and was wondering if it would be possible to observe a session hosted at MRI (I seem to remember the Museum doing something like this in the past).

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