Abby Pendlebury, Community Development Project Manager, Museum of Brands

Imagine your childhood kitchen. Think about your mother or father pulling out a cookbook, grabbing a spice off the spice rack, and smell it. What does it look like, smell like? Do you associate sounds with this? This exercise is one anyone can relate to regardless of age or stature. The purpose of the Brand Memories Programme at the Museum of Brands was to capture these moments and make them accessible for people with all different abilities.

In 2021, I started to work as a project manager for the Brand Memories Programme at the Museum. Quickly, I learned how impactful the program has been for the community, volunteers, staff, participants, and a new group promoting wellbeing as central to arts education. As we emerge out of this pandemic, it is more important now that we learn from this experience and continue to adapt to ensure access to museum collections and programs is available remotely as well as in person. Thanks to generous contributions from our funders, the second phase of our program is launching this Autumn.

Both Brand Memories and the new Living Brands Programme work to enhance the quality of life for those living with dementia. We cater to carers, families, group homes, and offer our resources to the greater London community. We provide sensory reminiscing sessions using replicas of brands you would find in your grandparents’ kitchen or bathroom—for example life buoy soap. These visceral objects are the launching points for conversation, and many times laughter.

With our volunteers and museum staff, we work to make engaging, arts centered activities that evoke happy memories, engage the senses, and overall provide an hour of enjoyment and conversation between participants and all involved in the session. We aim to not only interact between generations and with carers, but it is fundamental to have participants engaging with one another as a form of community building. These relationships are long-lasting and the impact on health, wellbeing, and community after a period of extreme isolation is even more valuable.

A large platform of our program is outreach. We provide free, downloadable activity packages on our website, we host and update a Brand Challenge Quiz App which has been wildly successful during Covid, and we have adapted to lead online reminiscing sessions and will continue to offer both online and in person reminiscing and training sessions.

Moving forward our goal is to make our activities, sessions, trainings, and professional development programs even more accessible. Technology has been a go-to during this pandemic, but it does not mean we will alienate people without access to computers or printers. We have had calls from more remote care facilities and families in the UK who cannot travel to London but want to participate. Therefore, we will be piloting a letterbox program so we can reach and be a resource and hopefully offer some creative ideas for enjoyable afternoon conversations and activities.

Additionally, we would like to focus more on the needs of our immediate community and diversify our collections. There are many different cultural centers, particularly in west London. We have worked with the Pepper Pot Adult Day Care Center. What we found is that we need to consider what life growing up in the UK was like for this generation and embrace the brands they grew up with. We will work to tailor specific events so they reflect the cultural memories of the wind-rush community, Jewish population, and south-east Asian communities to name a few.

Our museum, with over 150 years of brand histories from toys, coins, foods, fashions, and more, lays the foundation to start meaningful conversations. Our goal is to provide an educational and engaging session. Some of the best reactions have been participants standing and dancing to jingles from commercials. Objects, sounds, and smells trigger reactions. We structure our programs to be replicable so that multiple groups can use them, and hopefully more and more museums as well. However, the reactions, stories, and memories shared make each event stand alone. It is a valuable experience for everyone involved and we look forward to growing it further and providing resources for all involved with this very diverse community.

For more information on how you can get involved or to inquire about a booking or visit, please visit http://www.museumofbrands.com.
To contact us about the Brand Memories or Living Brands, email abby@museumofbrands.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *