Young and old learning together in Dutch museum
Last year, the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg joined forces with healthcare institution SVRZ and the Scalda regional training centre to work on the House of Memory programme. This saw people young and old learning from one another. It was a success, according to Education Administrator Hilde Hopmans.
During the interactive House of Memory tour, objects from the Zeeuws Museum’s collection were shown to 80 senior citizens from SVRZ care homes and around 120 upper secondary vocational students from the level 3 Individual Care course (VIG) at Scalda. An intergenerational dialogue ensued. Memories were retrieved and life stories shared. People paired up, and sometimes those pairs met again after the tour for another visit to the museum.
For the elderly, the programme was an opportunity to find out that their story still matters. The students learned about what the professional field of geriatric care entails. The museum was an ideal location for these two groups to engage in dialogue with one another.
'During the tour we used the Enquiry-based learning method', says Hilde. 'This involves the tour guide asking plenty of questions with the aim of extracting life stories. And that works very well indeed. The elderly open up and share extremely personal stories and memories associated with objects in the museum. About the war, for instance. The students find this very interesting, and so they’re quite respectful towards these elderly people. Conversely, the elderly really enjoy listening to the stories of those young people. Their views. We really get them to connect and that’s precisely the intention.'
The Zeeuws Museum, SVRZ and Scalda are organising a care-free day, which will contribute to boosting senior citizens’ sense of self-esteem. We need their stories to foster connection. The visit to the Zeeuws Museum provides them and the students with lots of enjoyable moments. Furthermore, the students acquire new knowledge and their sense of responsibility is stimulated.
Following the tour, the students were given a guest lecture on peer supervision by one of SVRZ’s Education Coordinators. 'As a museum we learned from the process too. Traditional regional costumes, for example; plenty of elderly people remember these from their youth, some even wore them themselves. They know stuff about these things that we weren’t yet aware of. That's really instructive. But even a painting of a Zeeland landscape can tease out new stories for us.'
As to why the Zeeuws Museum is engaging in this programme, there is little Hopmans needs to say. 'As a museum, our role is to protect our heritage. But the museum is for everyone, which is why we’re keen to ensure that it’s accessible and interesting to as many groups of people as possible. We also have a social role. The museum endeavours to be a place where people connect with one another, to get them talking with one another, in conjunction with communities and groups of people in Zeeland.'
This storie is part of the theme page on Museums & Galleries - A learning environment for adult education.
Photo: Zeeuws Museum, Mieke Wijnen