New display at Riverside Museum could kindle precious memories for those living with dementia

New display at Riverside Museum could kindle precious memories for those living with dementia

A new display at Riverside Museum seeks to spark memories in people living with dementia and encourage uplifting conversation with their family and friends.

A cherished Talbot Avenger Estate, built in 1981, and one of the last to be built at the Peugeot Talbot car plant, formerly Rootes Group Factory in Linwood, is the focal point of the display called, Car Sparks Memories.

The single object display was inspired by the donor of the car, who lives with dementia.

Seeing the joyful shared experience and the transformative impact being reunited with the treasured Talbot had on the family after a 13-year gap led curator Neil Johnson-Symington to explore the idea of creating a display centred around the distinctive car.

The car was donated by Angus Dougall, who visited Riverside Museum, which is operated by Culture and Sport charity Glasgow Life, to see the prized Talbot Avenger Estate unveiled to the public with his wife Suzanne and daughter, STV presenter Rona Dougall.

Rona Dougall said:

My whole family was thrilled to see the car in Riverside. I know my dad, in particular, is delighted to see it on show. It means so much to him, to all of us. When we were first reunited at the museum store there was a real flash of recognition, a genuine heartfelt response, to something he cherished and in which we created so many happy family memories.

Suzanne Dougall added:

Seeing the car after so long was fantastic. It transported me back to when my children were young and some wonderful family holidays. There are so many things in Riverside that remind you of years gone by, like the trams, which conjure up fond memories of being a child in Edinburgh. Hopefully our car will do the same for others and trigger memories that might have been forgotten. I know my grandchildren will treasure showing their children the car, and maybe wonder quite how six people and a dog fitted in.

By working alongside Alzheimer Scotland and placing the Talbot Avenger car in the context of other key social and cultural stimuli from the early 1980s, Riverside Museum went on to create a display aimed primarily at engaging those living with dementia.

Visitor feedback confirmed it would also appeal to the wider public, who often asked about seeing more recent cars from the late 20th century, which they could easily identify with.

Neil Johnson-Symington, Curator of Transport and Technology at Glasgow Life Museums, who put the exhibition together, said:

It was a pleasure to work with Angus, his family and Alzheimer Scotland’s Under-65s Men’s Group, who meet regularly at the Dementia Resource Centre in Bridgeton, to bring this display to life. We are indebted to Angus for his generous donation. I will never forget watching his reaction, the sheer joy on his face, on seeing the car again after so long. A car that transported him and his family around Scotland for so many years, on so many happy journeys and today has transported him back to those happy times.

Although only a small display, Car Sparks Memories was designed to ignite memories from the years surrounding the production of this distinctive vehicle. Glasgow Life offers several programmes for those living with dementia. It’s clear there is an appetite for even more ways of enhancing the experience of people living with dementia and those who care for them. We hope a visit to Riverside will provide a spark to relive cherished memories with those we cherish most.

Iain Houston of Alzheimer Scotland added:

Riverside Museum is already a rich environment for reminiscing. There are plenty of displays that transport people to special dates and places from their younger days. We all know the pleasure of recounting happy times, but for those living with dementia it can be harder to access those precious memories. It’s wonderful to see the Talbot on display. Everyone has a car story to share, and this provides another opportunity to kindle conversation and share memories, which can be hugely uplifting.

The display turns back time to the second half of the 20th century, when motor-driven road travel was booming.

The number of registered vehicles in Scotland approached one million by the end of the 1960s.

Capitalising on this clear trend, Glasgow became a focus for car production, which arrived most notably in 1963 with the opening of the Rootes Car Factory in Linwood.

The first car to be produced was the cool, yet compact, Hillman Imp. Over the next 13 years thousands of people employed at the factory built more than 400,000 cars.

In its heyday, more than 2,000 vehicles were produced each week allowing families across the country to buy their first family car and enjoy the freedom and fun it offered.

Neil Johnson-Symington added:

We are continuing to work with Alzheimer Scotland’s Under-65s Men’s Group, to explore ways to increase engagement, such as expanded digital content on an eIntro screen, an audio soundtrack and the usefulness of multi-sensory reminiscence kits.

Alzheimer Scotland believes that nobody should face dementia on their own. Anyone worried about their memory or affected by dementia can talk to someone via their 24-hour Freephone Dementia Helpline on 0808 808 3000.

Car Sparks Memories is located on the car wall at Riverside Museum. You can visit every day, for free.