Since the museum opened, Alzheimer Scotland and V&A Dundee have worked together on several ways to bring creativity and culture to those living with dementia in the local area, delivering tours of the major exhibitions and workshops in Alzheimer Scotland’s day care and Dementia Resource Centres.

We explored ways of continuing this high-quality support during the pandemic and gave live virtual tours which included the Mary Quant exhibition and the Scottish Design Galleries, allowing many people to take part, regardless of their physical location or ability to travel to the museum. This reduced people’s isolation and ensured they felt connected.

Alzheimer Scotland and V&A Dundee were able to take the joy and inspiration of design to people living with dementia and their carers. Digital technology enabled rich conversations while stimulating the mind and senses and provided opportunities for people to socialise, share memories, discuss, laugh, and contemplate.

Following the success of the virtual tours we developed a programme of online activities to bring the Mary Quant exhibition to life. The activities explored all aspects of the exhibition through presentations, a virtual walkthrough, handling tactile objects and group discussion. Handling materials were created and shared to participants, who then had a tactile experience of the exhibition in their own homes. We wanted to experiment with how a hybrid way of working could be delivered at scale, combining the benefits of digital content reaching a greater number of people, with the friendliness of an in-person event.

Our newly launched Virtual Resource Centre provided an opportunity and V&A Dundee was delighted to pilot a tour of their exhibition, ‘Night Fever: Designing Club Culture’ in June 2021, during Dementia Awareness Week. This was a new way of working for both Alzheimer Scotland and the museum, being the very first in-person tour also broadcast live to audiences online. It was a huge success, nearly 100 people watched online, enjoying the same experience as those in the galleries.

Our collaboration with the V&A Dundee has been a positive experience, and it is something we want to continue and build on using a blended approach. The feedback from our work so far has been overwhelming, highlighting how a hybrid way of working and a connection with culture can support and enhance the lives of those living with dementia, as well as their carers. People have said they felt connected, stimulated and joyful. At a time when access to services can be reduced, and the prospect of doing things that were normal before the pandemic feel like a distant memory, having the ability to work together on delivering meaningful shared experiences is incredibly powerful. The joy of culture and human connection is more important than ever – and we can still stay connected and enrich each other’s lives, even when we can’t always be together.

V&A Dundee building