A new exhibit at Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, harnessing the power of reminiscence therapy, was unveiled earlier this year.

‘Car Sparks Memories’ is a display designed for people living with dementia, their families, and carers. We know the benefits that reminiscence therapy such as Football Memories can bring, so we were delighted when museum curator, Neil Johnson Symington, got in touch with Iain Houston, Dementia Advisor, to ask if Alzheimer Scotland could help.

As people who are living with dementia are often able to recall objects and events from many years ago, display designers were keen to speak to people with lived experience to seek their valuable input. A series of meetings with our Glasgow under-65s men’s group followed and they were more than happy to get involved and share their thoughts and ideas.

The display opened in August and focuses on a previously donated vintage 1981 Talbot Avenger which had been brought out of storage and reunited with its owner, Angus Dougall. Angus has been diagnosed with dementia and seeing the car again had a profoundly positive impact. The experience sparked interest among museum staff, and they began to explore the idea of creating a specialist exhibit with Angus’ car as the centrepiece. The car – one of the last of its kind to be built in a Scottish factory – now sits proudly in the Glasgow museum. Curated to evoke memories around life experiences and stories from the past - focusing on the car’s heyday of the 1980s - the display gives people the opportunity to talk about times gone by that hold special meaning. 

Iain Houston said,

“Riverside Museum is already a rich environment for reminiscing. We all know the pleasure of recounting happy times, but for people living with dementia, it can
be harder to access those precious memories.”

Car sparks memories
© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection
Riverside Museum is free to visit and open Monday to Sunday. It houses the city’s fabulous transport and technology collections, which have been gathered over the centuries and reflect the important part Glasgow has played in the world through its contributions to heavy industries like shipbuilding, train manufacturing and engineering.