In 2015 the Hunt Museum started working with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland to promote the participation of people with dementia and their families in museums and galleries with the launch of its Dementia Friendly Community Initiative.

The initiative was gallery based and run by trained volunteers. In January 2016 the programme was started and the museum had its first group of 12 participants begin a six week programme. A responsive and welcoming space was provided for people with dementia to participate in facilitated discussions about exhibited artworks/artefacts so that they could become active participants in the life of the museum.

Our objects were:

  • To trigger imaginative responses, humorous reactions and personal anecdote reminiscences, from people living with dementia and their families and carers.
  • To encourage attendees to verbalise their experiences, ideas and memories.
  • To empower attendees to offer their opinions and ask questions.

The programme at the Hunt Museum, was viewed as a joint, rewarding exercise for the people delivering the programme and the people attending. It would be helpful for other projects embarking on this type of work to receive the necessary training and take enough time to prepare and put the programme together. This strategy proved most helpful in developing the programme at the Hunt Museum and aided the quality of the project and the level of volunteer engagement.

What came to light was how many people’s lives had been and are affected by dementia, even just within the museum community alone. It is hoped that the Art Conversation Programme run by the Hunt Museum last January and February will be repeated this September.