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Recipes and Reminiscences

26 June 14 -- jsuess
This post was contributed by Helen Fountain, ASPIRE Reminiscence Officer, Museum of Oxford

The Museum of Oxford Reminiscence programme is run in collaboration with Oxford ASPIRE as part of a Delivery Partnership. ASPIRE seconds a full time Reminiscence Officer to the museum and provides them with a budget to deliver projects and supports a steering group to help frame their work.

The main aim of the Museum of Oxford’s Recipes and Reminiscences project was to share and preserve some of Oxford’s cookery history via a programme of reminiscence events and intergenerational cookery sessions with a class of children at a local primary school. The project’s other aims included: developing an exhibition to showcase the collected material; a family art day to create 3D food related artwork for the exhibition; and creating a recipe book to sell in the museum shop.

The first stage of the project was to host two – well attended – reminiscence events where the Reminiscence Officer collected favourite family recipes from the participants. The sessions focussed on Oxford’s food history and topics included Cooper’s Marmalade, Morrell’s Brewery and Oxford’s Wartime Municipal Restaurants. While one session was held at the museum, the second took place at Taste of the Tropics pop up Caribbean Café in East Oxford, giving the participants a chance to try Caribbean cuisine and to experience Caribbean culture; a new experience for some.

“The food at the Taste of the Tropics was tasty and the talk that followed it interesting…” (Older participant)

The Reminiscence Group

The next stage was to work with a class of Year 3 children from Windmill School in Headington to create one of the recipes collected at the reminiscence sessions. Each week for 3 weeks 10 children teamed up with 5 older people to bake a batch of Coconut Pyramids. The children took part in a Bake-Off style competition which was judged by their head teacher. All the children received a prize and the intergenerational contact was much enjoyed by young and old alike.

“At Windmill School I really enjoyed seeing the children taking such an interest, it was a lovely idea and great that all the children got a certificate for their work. Very well organised.” (Older participant)

Coconut Pyramids baked by Windmill School

This led onto a Family Art Day to create a large 3D Coconut Pyramid and Christmas Pudding for an exhibition showcasing the project. Families were invited to drop in and help create the artworks. The exhibition also featured a listening post with participants’ recorded memories available to listen to and a display case of old fashioned cookery related objects. The exhibition was open for 6 weeks and attracted 3,174 visitors. The panels and 3D work from the exhibition are now on display at the participating school.

“I took part in the Family Art Day with my niece. I found it a very positive experience and very interesting. A lot of thought had gone into the preparation and the children were very engaged in what was there…” (Older participant)

Art Day Activities

An innovative aspect of the project was the way in which it fed into the Museum’s exhibition programme and also the potential that it has to generate revenue for the museum via the sale of the recipe book in the gift shop. This in turn gave the participants a very meaningful sense of engagement with the Museum and a sense of purpose in taking art in the project. During the lifetime of the project 126 adults and 77 children were engaged in the project at various stages.

As well as the project outputs of the exhibition and cookbook, the project outcomes included:

  • Celebrating the skills of the participants and their family traditions
  • Increased wellbeing of the participants by engaging them in enriching and sociable activities
  • Educating a group of year 3 children in cookery history and cookery skills
  • Develop a greater understanding between different groups, young and old, via participation in creative activities
  • Enabling older participants to develop a greater understanding of other cultures.

Charles admiring Art Day results

The project had the ambitious goal of the production of a recipe book for sale in the Museum shop which has not yet been realised. The funding required has not yet been secured. It is planned to put the book together as a scrapbook style recipe book using existing staff resources and hopefully use this as a blueprint for a retail friendly recipe book in the future.

The intergenerational element of the project was a particular success and the school children engaged very well with the older people and really enjoyed cooking together. Some of the children told us that they would like to go on to become chefs! The intergenerational aspect of the project helped to break down preconceptions and barriers by bringing together groups who do not normally work together in this way and helped to increase understanding and build relationships.

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