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The Power of Eggs – and one slightly scruffy bird

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How objects acquired from Bolton’s egg shop contributed to a communication tool for people with dementia and their carers.

Henry Bolton in his egg shop in Gardner Street, Brighton, c1970s – can you spot the cockerel?

In 2015 Dan Robertson and I had the opportunity to contribute to the now multi-award winning National Museums Liverpool, My House of Memories app. Created with and for people living with dementia and their carers, images of objects within museum collections are chosen to evoke memories and stories which can support communication, conversations and creative interaction.

The app is attractive, fun and can be used by anyone. It draws you in with lots to explore and many routes to travel.

The app has pictures of objects from across the decades, which are brought to life with sound, music and descriptions, and provide an easy-to-use way to help people living with dementia explore things that resonate with them.

Dan and I delved into the museum’s collections to source images of objects that could be used to create a chain or story expanded from a single initial image. By linking a small group of images, combined with a brief narrated description to add context, occasional questions and related sounds, stories and history can be brought to life and creativity can be stimulated to create something new. The images become informal communication tools.

Images spark memories and the imagination and can stimulate conversation. Sharing stories real or imagined is an essential part of being a human: they start, punctuate and contribute to conversations. Storytelling can include individual and shared experiences and histories, sometimes revealing something new and unknown about the individual. It can encourage questions, wonder, interest, humour, fun.

Dementia can rob people of fluid communication. Conversations can be difficult and stunted; the back and forth of conversation can be erratic, even lost. An image with lots to explore, or that raises questions, invites the viewer in. The eye explores the detail to make sense of what they see, whether that is drawing from memory, or recreating the narrative. That exploration is creative; it uses the senses and can stimulate exchanges between people.

One theme Dan and I chose to include relates to eggs. Starting with an advert for Stonegate’s eggs, we then chose images from the collection of items relating to Bolton’s egg shop, including the taxidermy cockerel that lived in the shop window.

The cockerel as it appeared in 2015 when it was displayed at The Keep archive, Brighton

Stonegate’s advert

The business was started by the Bolton family in Hove in the 1880s. A Brighton shop was opened in Gardner Street from the 1910s and remained a family business until it ceased trading in 1984. The shop reportedly contained an egg-straordinary 10,000 eggs at its peak!

Henry Bolton posing with his taxidermy cockerel. The Evening Argus, c1980.

Social history collections in museums can be utilised in many ways. They can inspire, bring joy and intrigue, open conversations and contribute to lifelong learning. One way audiences can egg-splore Royal Pavilion & Museums’ collections is via our Digital Media Bank online.

Henpower is another inspiring, egg-powered older peoples project that we’re aware of. It aims to ’empower older people to build positive relationships through hen-keeping with improved wellbeing, reduced loneliness and reduced depression.’

Susan Eskdale, Lead for Community Engagement

Dan Robertson, Curator of Local History & Archaeology