Recalling school days for Hitchin museum project

Residents of Minsden Residential Care Home in Hitchin taking part in the memory workshops

Residents of Minsden Residential Care Home in Hitchin taking part in the memory workshops - Credit: Archant

A museum has started a project to run memory workshops with residents of a care home.

The British Schools Museum in Hitchin is working with Minsden Residential Care Home in the town by using material and objects from the museum to stimulate distant memories of schooldays.

Activity workers Claire Dunkin and Vita Unamba-Oparah have been working with museum manager Andy Gibbs.

The project, called the Happiest Days of Your Life? is designed to use memory work as a therapeutic exercise and to demonstrate how important individual oral histories are in better understanding the school experience for people in years gone by.

Mr Gibbs said: “Often when doing reminiscence work with people they begin by saying ‘my stories aren’t important’ or ‘I don’t remember anything interesting’. However, more often than not, they then go on to relate the most interesting, humorous or poignant stories.

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“We are using the oral histories of former pupils more and more in the way we tell the story of the British schools here in Hitchin.

“Many people like to hear about the history of the buildings or the way the curriculum and teaching methods have changed, but it is the stories of the individual pupils, told in their own words, that really bring the place to life. School dinners, playground games, school trips, school uniforms – all these subjects really help people to feel what it was like.”

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Claire added: “The sessions have been very stimulating for our residents and have created a lot of interest. They have loved his sessions, especially when Andy arrived dressed as a headmaster with his hat and cane.

“We feel extremely privileged to be part of this project and hope to develop a long-lasting relationship with Andy and the wonderful museum.”

The project has received funding from SHARE – a regional programme funded by Arts Council England to deliver museum development across the East of England – but Mr Gibbs said the museum will continue the work and hopefully expand the project long into the future.

“The SHARE funding means this is a service we are able to provide to the community for free,” he said.

“This project is key to our aims of community engagement, demonstrating the importance of everybody’s individual histories and making the museum more relevant and interesting to the widest possible audience.”

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