Ageing creatively – museums and older people

In a remote rural region, such as Cornwall, many older people can become isolated or have difficulty accessing museums. Research by the Campaign to End Loneliness suggests that about 10% of people across the UK aged 65 and over are lonely most or all of the time.

In 2016, Cornwall Museums Partnership supported three museums to create specific projects for older people within the county. This created more opportunities for the audience to be inspired by and participate in activities across museums in Cornwall.

The three museums, Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, The Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno, and Falmouth Art Gallery, worked with artists and care staff to create bespoke projects that would appeal to audiences over the age of 65. Using their existing collections as the initial starting point, these museums looked to create interesting projects that had a positive impact.

Royal Cornwall Museum

Royal Cornwall Museum decided to link their project to an established community outreach exhibition entitled ‘A Story of Cornwall’. The inspiration came from the music created for the ‘Story of Cornwall’ project and reminiscence boxes with objects from the museum’s handling collection. The Museum team ran a series of music and oral recording outreach sessions at a nearby care home, where artists did some reminiscence work and captured the resident’s stories by recording them. The response was so positive, the team at Royal Cornwall Museum are now building upon this work by exploring new ways in which they can continue to enable older people to access activities at the museum.

Telegraph Museum Porthcurno

Telegraph Museum Porthcurno, also took a similar approach. By working with a local care home and using the resources within the museums, they used ideas around sending and receiving messages as the starting point. Alongside the creative sessions, participants were supported to visit the museum by the care home and see their artwork displayed, while enjoying a celebratory tea party. The museum is now developing the next stage of the project, which uses arts and craft activities to link to the museum’s story of the telegram.

Falmouth Art Gallery

Falmouth Art Gallery chose to engage with several different groups, including a day care centre, a memory café, and two residential care homes. The gallery was interested in producing a digital resource for older audiences and wanted to find out which works from their collections would best speak to these groups. The gallery are now developing a series of resource boxes and outreach activities, which they will share with a number of older groups within the local area.

These projects have been a great opportunity to explore how we can increase and stregthen links within the local community and support older people to visit and take part in museum activities.

Find out more

The Lifelong Learning projects were funded through Arts Council England’s Major Partner Museum Programme. Find out more by visiting their website.