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Carisbrooke Castle Museum - Developing an outreach service for elderly people in our community


The project has been managed by project manager, Lisa Kerley. Volunteers have been a key aspect to the project as they are delivering the outreach sessions using the new collections.

12 new collections of objects have been created specifically for use with older people. Objects were selected for sensory appeal and interest in terms of subject matter - themes were chosen in consultation with partner organisations and utilising objects in our existing education collection. The themes we chose were: the kitchen, around the home, sports and games, the seaside, shopping, home crafts, Christmas, wartime, travel and transport, going out, washday and teatime. Each box has related photographs, information about the objects and questions to aid conversation.

Eight volunteers were recruited and involved in a training programme which included initial preparation by the project manager, on-going mentorship and “shadowing” of manager-led delivery. This was augmented with best-practice visits (to Hampshire Museum Service sites), and also special-needs training (e.g. a Dementia Awareness course). A further bespoke day of specific professional training was commissioned from Age Exchange who delivered a course for us here on the Isle of Wight.

Twenty-four outreach sessions were offered to residential homes as well as other organisations supporting older people in our community such as the 5 Alzheimer's Cafe’s on the IOW, Stroke Association, Alzheimer's Society and Age UK. In addition to those visits the new boxes have also been used at 15 other sessions during the year for Adult Learning groups in the community. Each session was designed with residents needs in mind after consultation and discussion with staff.

We also hosted 2 visits to the museum attended by 50 people from the Alzheimer’s Society, Tile House and Highfield House residential homes.

What were the Project aims?

This project has used museum resources (objects, pictures, and the skills and knowledge of staff) to enhance the quality of life of older people living in residential and nursing care. More specifically the aims included:

  • to assemble collections of objects and photographs illustrating aspects of life in the past
  • to create tabletop and laptray exhibitions of objects for individual and small group use, especially as a focus for family visits and one-to-one conversations
  • to trial the use of new collections during outreach visits to residential homes and with older people in the community
  • to develop activities for residential home group visits to the Museum

What was the impact of the project?

The impact has been wide and far reaching, as not only the residents of the care homes, or members of the groups we have visited have benefited from the outreach sessions. The benefits are extended to family members and friends that have been present during our sessions. Care-home staff and volunteers have co-delivered sessions alongside museum staff and volunteers. Participants have been encouraged to interact with each other, share memories and engage in conversation - many have told us that our sessions enabled them to get to know each other better.

Participants have been more mentally active. The use of museum objects in our sessions and in visits to the museum have engaged the senses of sight, hearing, touch and smell. The social interaction evident in the sessions have helped to promote and maintain the emotional well-being of participants.

A total of 465 people have been involved and benefited from the project and 200 hours of volunteer time has been committed.

What went well?

Each session was evaluated - by residents and staff at the homes and the project manager and volunteers delivering sessions. Feedback was extremely positive with many comments made about how the objects stimulated conversation, enhanced communication, promoted social interaction and impacted on positive wellbeing.

Here are some of the comments from our evaluation:

“The best thing about the session today was the stimulation of conversation between people of different ages/and stages of dementia”.

“I liked in particular.....talking about the objects which brought back memories of the past and helped us to find out more about each other that we didn’t know before”.

“Discussing objects brought smiles and delight”.

What didn’t go well?

We had planned to organise a greater number of visits to the museum for the organisations we had worked with. Due to the combination of the physical frailty of many of the residents, difficulty in organising transport and adverse wintry weather, we were not able to do this.

The sessions that worked the best in terms of engaging residents were those where care home staff and volunteers were present in greater numbers. This really helped us to get to know the residents better in terms of their needs and how best to engage with them. Where this was not possible the session was not as successful.

What are your plans for the future?

Some of the care homes we worked with to pilot sessions would now like a regular session of outreach. Although the pilot sessions were free of charge as part of the project each visit will now be charged at £40 to cover administration and travel. Sessions will be delivered by volunteers and the administration of the service taken over by a member of museum staff. The museum will continue to work in the community promoting the outreach programme and word is spreading around the circuit that these sessions are very beneficial, fun and enjoyable for all involved!

Since January 2015 the Museum has also been able, with funding from HLF Sharing Heritage, to set up a new project to record the spoken memories of older people in our community. Volunteers are being trained to use oral history recording equipment to interview older people to create a new oral history archive for the Museum. The interviews will be used to provide additional material for our outreach collections as well as be available for researchers and schools to use.

Project Funding

Externally funded by Awards for All, Hampshire and IOW Community Fund, IOW High Sheriff’s Fund