Some feedback for our StoryCreator App

We recently received this rather lovely message from someone who has been using the Tangible Memories StoryCreator app with their relative with quite advanced dementia,

‘A short email to let you know that your Story Creator app is making waves.  I used it last week to stimulate memories for my Dad who is living with quite advanced dementia.  When I looked through it with him he did not recognise pictures of himself although he lingered over a photo of his father.  On another occasion when my sister went back through it with him there was one page that got him laughing and laughing and trying to communicate an anecdote about something funny that he got up to on his father’s boat in the 1950s.  This was wonderful in many ways.  Firstly, he was laughing his wonderful belly laugh, secondly he was telling my sister and my mother about an event that was new to them and thirdly it broke through my mother’s reservations about the power of reminiscence.’

We’re delighted to hear about the power of the app. Why not download it and share with your relative over the Christmas period? And do let us know how you get on.

Grand Opening of the first Parlour of Wonder

A few photos from the Parlour of Wonder opening at Blaise Weston yesterday. This was a fantastic event to celebrate the opening of the ‘Memory Parlour’ at Blaise Weston Court. We are currently developing this idea and calling it a ‘Parlour of Wonder’.

Community engagement is increasingly recognised by the care sector and social care commissioners as vital in tackling issues of social isolation in our older populations living in care. Together with Alive! and our partners in care settings we want to co-design engaging community spaces (parlours) where older people can interact with evocative objects and the StoryCreator app and our other prototypes to record and share their memories and life histories. This will involve imagining and creating a new space of discovery, connection, meaning making and mystery, rather like the ‘cabinets of curiosity’ or ‘wonder rooms’ of old. Unlike cabinets of curiosity, our ‘Parlours of Wonder’ will not be designed and curated by us as arts and humanities researchers, artists and computer scientists. Our vision is that these technology enhanced spaces will be co-curated by and for residents, care staff, families and community members. Care managers who have been involved in the TMP project believe there is huge potential to use these Parlours of Wonder for community engagement where local school children, community groups and isolated older people will be encouraged to enjoy a cup of tea and a chat or a more formal encounter, sparking questions, connections, new interests or opportunities for contemplation.

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Quilting: Cradle to Grave

Last week Helen presented at a seminar at the University of Bristol organised by the fantastic Ann Rippin who collaborated with us as a member of Bristol quilters in organising interactive cushion production at our conference. Ann is an academic in Management Studies who works closely with the Bristol Quilters on a number of projects. Ann has Mary Beth Stalp  visiting as a Benjamin Meaker Fellow who has worked extensively with quilters  in the US.  The seminar last week was a great opportunity to talk about Tangible Memories to a different audience and the other presentations really gave us food for thought, especially in relation to taking the project forward using textiles and quilting.

Ann blogged about the event so for those interested do read below – and if you’re really interested do visit Ann’s blog in which she talks about all kinds of fascinating events.

Ann’s blog post: Quilting Cradle to Grave

The day started with a great presentation from Tom Keating who is a PhD student in Geographical Studies at the University of Bristol.  He was talking about the work of Josh Barnes, who is working on putting together technology and textiles for children in hospital.  The technology will enable children to get video messages from their parents while they are in the ward so that they can keep in touch.  They do this by scanning a code on the quilt and seeing the message on an iPad or iPhone (other smart technologies are available).  I thought, as he was talking, that this links with academic writings on portraiture, that they allow the absent other to be present – so a monarch can be present in 2D form in any part of the kingdom or empire, and this helps to maintain presence and thus control over the subjects.  Hence, as Simon Sharma was telling us on tv last week, there are so many standardised and ritualised portraits of Elizabeth I.

This departure was interesting because it allows children to play and move around, and gives them the comfort of the quilted textile.  It is active because children are playing with it, and passive because it remains a watching and listening activity.  What was so great was that Tom was dealing with high-end, difficult theoretical work but adapted it really well to an audience of non-specialists on Deleuze and Guattari.  I think he also loved meeting quilters who gave him the kind of fearless critique of his work that only women of a certain age can give, but which was constructive and positive and helped him think through some of his ideas on making.

Next up was our very own Val Dixon from Bristol Quilters who talked about the work that the group does providing quilts for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.  We make tiny, light and bright quilts for premature babies and fabric covers for the incubators.  Val said that we had made 200 a year for ten years, and as we saw at the group’s AGM later on in the day, there are still plenty more to come.  Every baby gets a quilt and regardless of whether they survive or not, parents get to keep the quilt.  I was interested with my academic hat on about the uses that the incubator covers have.  They are backed with dark fabric to protect prem babies’ eyes, and they make the room much less stressful for the mothers, but they also have what is described as user-determined uses.  They are used as playmats when the babies go home, and also as physiotherapy mats as some of the babies require so much care.  What came across to me from Val’s excellent presentation was that the quilts are as much a gift to the mothers as to the babies, and, to use the academic jargon, that are very tangible actors in an economy of care.  These are the very first possessions of these tiny babies, and although they are sometimes buried with them, the quilts are always theirs.

Marybeth came next and talked about quilts as life bookmarks.  They keep the pages on our special life events and memories.  Although most quilt scholarship is about the objects themselves and their histories, Marybeth is interested in the living, talking makers and the circumstances which we think are special enough to make quilts to mark.  She is sometimes controversial in her claim that ‘Quilting causes tension in the home’, but she has found that when older women take up quilting or when a woman has plenty of domestic obligations and duties, the time and space the hobby requires can cause tension.  This is along the lines of, ‘I know you are making a family heirloom which will last generations, but where’s my dinner?’  She showed us something of the shadowy side of quilting with a fundraiser quilt for the KluKluxKlan, and some break-up and divorce quilts.  We also had a look at the cartoony ‘The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue’ which is a piece in which in every panel poor old Sue is killed in another fiendish way.  Marybeth showed pieces from her own history and career, and introduced me to a new idea: a Solomon’s quilt, which is where when someone in the family dies one of their quilts is cut up and made into another set of smaller quilts and given as a keepsake to their relatives.

I then showed some examples of ersatz memorial quilts that I have made to demonstrate my latest talk, oh, and my wedding quilt, made for me and the Medieval Historian by my mother.

Finally, the wonderful Helen Manchester talked to us about her work at the other extreme from the babies, the very elderly and end of life people in care homes.  This is part of a project to look at enhancing their experiences and helping them to capture their memories and it includes textiles as they can be such a source of comfort.  So the lovely thing about this is that it might finally prove a way into inter-generational work as young people are very familiar (usually) with the technology such as smart phones and the older generations have an existing creative repertoire of quilting, stitching, knitting and so on, which can come together to form talking cushions and so on.  Helen described her project as thinking about moving from physical care into relational care through textiles, and building a community through stories about coping with loss.  I love Helen’s project because it is so imaginative and helps me to feel a bit less terrified of a lonely and isolated old age.  It is full of optimism and I love the fact that the quilts are part of that.

 

Tangible Memories at Digital Design Weekend

AHRC Press Release!

AHRC Research Showcased at V&A’s Digital Design Weekend

Research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will feature at this year’s V&A Digital Design Weekend.

The Digital Design weekend, Saturday 26 September 2015 and Sunday 27 September 2015, is a series of special events celebrating contemporary digital art and design, including interactive installations, demonstrations of robotics, tinkering and inventive electronics, workshops, family activities and more.

The Digital Design Weekend coincides with the London Design Festival at the V&A (19 – 27 September 2015). The London Design Festival is a nine day festival of contemporary design that celebrates London as the creative capital of the world.

Five research projects, funded by the AHRC will feature at the event including Tangible Memories, a project led by Helen Manchester at the University of Bristol. The project has been co-designing novel technologies to enable staff, families and residents at care homes across Bristol to record and share stories and to engage residents in multisensory experiences. The aim of the project is to enhance the quality of life of residents in care settings and encourage social and creative activities. You can watch an AHRC film about the Tangible Memories project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e7S9fBJvOg

All the AHRC projects that are being showcased at the event are funded under the AHRC’s Capital Call which sought explore the creative capacities of communities. The call, from 2013, aimed to harness the transformative power of digital technologies to stimulate innovative engagements and research co-production between communities and researchers.

The other AHRC-funded projects which will be showcased during the V&A Digital Design Weekend are:

Explorations in open access community storytelling and the digital archive.  

Multimedia artwork developed during a series of interventions with leading digital artists from across Latin America who engage with cityscapes.

 

A drawing robot reproduces margin notes from the Bloodaxe Archive of contemporary poetry.

 

Untold stories of the people who lived and worked in former industrial buildings in the East Midlands: Leicester’s Cultural Quarter and Glossop, a mill town in North Derbyshire.

A publication supported by AHRC and including contributions from participating artists, designers and scientists will be distributed free during the event.

Most events at the Digital Design Weekend are free and drop-in, and available on a first come, first served basis. For more information and to view a full programme please visit: http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/5566/digital-design-weekend-2015-1302807124/

For further information from the AHRC, please contact Danielle Moore-Chick on 01793 41 6021 or d.moore-chick@ahrc.ac.uk

Notes for editors

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. ahrc.ac.uk

Tangible Memories at the V & A

We’re delighted that some of our work will feature at the V & A Digital Design weekend at the end of this month. It should be a great weekend as the V & A suggest:

‘Now in it’s fifth year, the V&A Digital Design Weekend brings together artists, designers, engineers and scientists celebrating the intersections of art, design and technology. Designers and artists will take over the Museum with pop up installations, open workshops, labs and family-friendly activities taking place around the building, exploring themes of civic design, sustainability and collaborative making.’

Sign up here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/va-digital-design-weekend-2015-tickets-18269529655