Social Stories and Guided Reminiscence in museums & cultural places

Older adult woman looking at picture on wall

Museums and other cultural places (like libraries and cafes) are excellent spaces for enabling people’s abilities to recall and share memories. This practice can be particularly beneficial for older adults and people with memory impairments like dementia.

Using Guided Reminiscence, we can use the sensory environment and experiences of the present to recall personal and institutional pasts, share stories together and help consolidate memories and relationships into the future.

This post is about an idea to create new resources and methods for enabling wellbeing within museums (and other public spaces like libraries and cafes).

I am looking for partners to help build prototypes and try out the methods.

A DIVE design sequence for Guided Reminiscence in a museum

DIVE theory - Escribe, Imagine, Viewpoints, Experiences

DIVE is a guided reminiscence practice. It uses research ideas that memory recall of the past is dependent upon sensory experiences in the present. Museums (or anywhere which has artefacts or activities that can trigger sensory responses) are thus excellent places to enable such practice. The place and the objects within it feed the participants and build their capacities to access and recall past personal memories.

In practical terms, this means that a sequence of artefacts, stories and people can be arranged to enable a positive experience.

  • Using place and artefacts to activate individual senses and recall
  • Using social stories to safely guide attention to sensory experiences to explore past memories using visceral artefacts in the present
  • Using prompts and questions to enable reminiscence and storytelling between visitors, family, carers and staff
  • Using people and place to share stories and offer alternative viewpoints
  • Using this experience to consolidate memories of both personal and institutional pasts and to create new shared sensory moments between people in the present for future recall

Seeking partners to experiment with

I am seeking partner organisations to experiment with this idea.

It could be done in almost any size of museum (or library and cafe).

We build stories and practices together to invite, welcome and enable visitors to try out the idea and review what works to improve it.

What you get is new resources and staff skills.

What visitors get is a new way of engaging with the institution and with friends and family members.

You can download a Pdf of this information from Dropbox: Social Stories and Guided Reminiscence.

Contact me

If you are interested or would just like to chat, please contact me either by email at or use the form on the Contact Us page.

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