Memorybilia ‘mystery shoppers’ help make Huguenot Museum more dementia friendly

Memory bila were the first DEEP group to take part in  a joint project with Rica, the experts in age and ability research.

Rica has been funded by the John Ellerman Foundation in a new initiative to develop and carry out consumer research with people with dementia.

Members of Memorybilia found that clearer directions and signage, avoiding information overload and providing dedicated headphones could all make the experience of visiting Rochester’s Huguenot Museum an even more enjoyable place to visit for people who have dementia.

Lighting, signs, patterns and intrusive sound may all contribute to making public places frustrating and disorientating for people with dementia. As an active member of the Medway Dementia Action Alliance, the Huguenot Museum was keen to find out how it could improve the visitor experience.

Shoppers “had a very positive experience” at the museum and “would like to visit again,” they told Rica researchers. However, they highlighted improvements which could enhance the experience for people with dementia, including clear, unambiguous directions; easier to read text size with high contrast; headphones to add information and remove distractions; and clear explanations of interactive exhibits.

What the mystery shoppers from Memorybilia think about their experience:

Andrew says: “I like the whole thing, really, it’s modern and comfortable, and it’s quiet. [You can] think quietly.”
Jane says: “It’s very relaxed.”
Geoff says: “It wasn’t too bright, it was easy to focus on the exhibits. Sometimes you go into a place with a bright light and it tends to occupy your vision rather than looking at what’s on the table.”
The story:
Geoff says: “It seemed to flow naturally; [the timeline] built up a picture of how it happened.”
Written information:
Jane says: “I would have liked to know more about the artefacts in the glass cabinet, but unfortunately the writing was too small.”
Delivering information:
Peter says: “Something that I did find difficult… there was a television video going on, and I found I couldn’t concentrate on [reading information cards], I can only concentrate on one thing at a time.”
(All names used are pseudonyms.)

Amy Dimmock, the Huguenot Museum’s Learning and Community Engagement Officer, adds: “It was great to work with Rica and DEEP on the mystery shopping project. We found it incredibly useful to see the space through others’ eyes and to see what works and what could be changed. We’re already planning changes to the galleries to make the museum more dementia friendly.”

Read the full report on the Rica website