‘Memories at the Museum’ is a refreshing tour for the mind

Kathy Schubert
Kathy Schubert
(Courtesy of Kathy Schubert)

Rancho Bernardo resident Kathy Schubert is a big fan of learning new things. When she found out about an online program, “Memories at the Museum,” offering docent-led interactive discussions prompted by specific pieces of art selected from three participating museums in Balboa Park, she jumped at the chance to join.

What makes this program special is that it’s designed for people in the early stages of dementia. For Schubert, living with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), “Memories at the Museum” is a highlight of her month.

“Being diagnosed with MCI, I look at all things in a different way now,” Schubert says. “I wasn’t a ‘museum person’ before, but I’ve learned a lot and this is really the most enjoyable thing I do now.”

Schubert is among dozens of the participants in the Memories at the Museum program, a free monthly virtual event that partners the UC San Diego Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Alzheimer’s Association San Diego/Imperial chapter with the Museum of Photographic Arts, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Timken Museum of Art and the Mingei International Museum.

On the first Tuesday of every month, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., participants use a Zoom link to connect with museum staff and Alzheimer’s patient-support experts to talk about the photographs or art they are seeing, and discuss the feelings – and perhaps the memories – the photographs and art inspire.

The Memories at the Museum program went virtual in Spring 2020 after the global pandemic began. The program has remained popular, and the virtual format allows more people to experience it every month.

“The idea is to really engage and make it much more interactive,” Christina Gigliotti, operations manager for the Shiley-Marcos research center, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a 2020 interview. “People share social memories and reminiscence, and share their own experiences and how it connects to the art.”

“It’s been a valuable partnership with the Shiley-Marcos team,” says Alejandra Pulido, MSW, care consultant and education manager for the Alzheimer’s Association San Diego/Imperial Chapter. “The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The program has also proven popular and beneficial for caregivers.

“Caregivers for people with dementia are looking for activities in which they can share experiences with their loved ones,” Pulido adds. “Memories at the Museum offers a fresh, fun and educational experience for everyone who participates.”

“The docents are especially helpful,” Schubert said, “and they encourage you to look at the art in a fresh, new way. They elicit feelings and interpretations from the participants as to what catches our eyes. It’s wonderful to see how all of this flows into real life.

“When my husband mentions to me that we’re getting close to the next session, I look forward to seeing what type of art they will be sharing with us each month!”

For more information or to register for the next Memories at the Museum virtual event from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month, visit bit.ly/3BH5KGj or call (858) 822-4800. — Alzheimer’s Association news release