Here, Reminiscence hosts Stuart Nicolle and Jason Castledine from our Archives and Collections Team tell us more about how the Reminiscence sessions came about, why they are so vital to our community and how they can continue to grow.
How did Reminiscence sessions come about?
JC: The incredible depth and variety of the collections held by Jersey Heritage offer a rich source of material for reminiscence work. We have collections shelves laden with items that can’t all be enjoyed in our annual exhibitions, so we found an opportunity to use many of them in our handling boxes. They are fantastic triggers of conversations and for unlocking long dormant memories.
The Reminiscence sessions themselves were part of our involvement with the Social Activities Forum. In the initial stages, the role of Jersey Heritage was to make use of the Jersey Archive collections as a tool for reminiscence work. Our earlier sessions used the Jersey Film Archive as a vehicle for triggering reminiscence within the sessions. The films provided a fantastic resource and often provoked lively debate among the groups Our programme has continued to grow in popularity and demand and we host more than 20 a year in locations around the Island.
Can you explain how these objects trigger memories?
JC: A key to any object or photograph is that it provides an association to a particular place, subject, event or person. For example, a wooden butter pat might act as a reminder for one of our participants of their childhood growing up on a farm and making homemade butter. A simple photograph or object from the Occupation can trigger memories of childhood life at a time of hardship. Other items trigger an indirect memory. Perhaps a discussion around wartime objects stimulates memories of a relative or friend who served in the army, their experiences and ultimate return to the Island. The objects are powerful catalysts to unlocking memories and stories that often may not have been voiced for many years.
How do you see the idea of ‘Reminiscence Sessions’ developing?
SN: We are keen to continue the programme, developing and expanding it with new objects and photographs. We want to make more use of our heritage sites as venues whilst continuing our sessions at parish halls and care homes. We are still actively involved in the Social Activities Forum and new care homes continue to come forward to ask us to host sessions. So far, the feedback from audiences has been hugely positive and appreciative.
Jason and I conduct the sessions alone for the most part, with the help of a volunteer for the larger sessions. We are always grateful for contributions to our Reminiscence boxes and for any other support people can provide.
We hope that we can inspire more people to conduct their own Reminiscence sessions. This could involve a trip to the attic to put together your own Reminiscence box, downloading our ‘Jersey Memory Box’ app or using our ‘Time to Talk’ conversation starter sheets. Sharing our life’s experiences with our friends and family helps keep stories alive and is of vital importance to both the individual and the continuation of our community and family histories.
Why is the Reminiscence Programme so important?
Sense of community: exchanging memories and chatting about our lives helps generate a sense of togetherness and the feeling of being part of a community.
Combatting isolation: As people get older, the loss of partners and close friends can lead to feelings of isolation; talking and reminiscing about our lives can provide common ground for people to form new relationships and links within new groups.
Sense of Identity: Sharing our life’s experiences within a friendly environment helps people reinforce their own sense of identity; giving their lives meaning at a time when they may be feeling vulnerable and less sure of themselves.
A part of history: Reminiscence work and the stories it triggers can give younger generations a fascinating and valuable first-hand account of many social and political events of the last century. It can also provide people with invaluable information about past skills, events and beliefs that might otherwise be lost. We often learn things we didn’t know about or the use of an object through these sessions. We continue to learn about our past and how it has influenced and shaped what we do, think and feel today which is immensely rewarding and valuable.
Recognition: Reminiscence work can give everyone in the group a chance to be recognised as an individual and have their opinions and views heard and valued.
Supporting others: Reminiscence stimulates both happy and sad memories within a group and often provides immense support for participants as others recall similar experiences.
Creativity and stimulation: Reminiscing through objects and photographs provides one way in which people can continue to stimulate their mind and creativity, such as trying to work out what an object was used for.