Reminiscence at Home

Objects and photographs are great conversation starters and help to get people thinking about and discussing their memories. During current restrictions, our physical loan box service is temporarily suspended however, we have created a new resources called “Downloadable Loan Boxes”!

Reminiscence is a great way to bring some joy, help people with their sense of identity and, you never know, you might learn a little history!

The Resource

These are free PDF’s which can be downloaded and shown on your device or printed out. Click on the below topics below to download:

  1. Reminiscence at Home_ Home – Objects from the Home

  2. Reminiscence at Home_Hobbies – Hobbies & Pastimes Objects

  3. Reminiscence at Home_mining – Mining Objects

Each resource includes a selection of photographs of objects from our Recognised Collection. We have also included suggested topics next to each photograph but do think of a topic that you think would suit the person in advance. Topics could include; food, holidays, working life, first/best jobs, home life, sport, transport, local neighbourhood, growing up, etc.

Who can use this resource?

This resource can be used by anyone as a conversation starter but we hope it is particularly useful for:

  • Care settings

  • Carers supporting someone at home who is living with dementia

  • Older people who are isolating or shielding and family members living separately

Schools are welcome to use this resource for learning purposes but please contact our Education Department when doing so.

What is reminiscence?

Reminiscence is the act of recollecting past experiences or events. Usually, this is when people share their personal stories, life experiences and memories.

Benefits of reminiscence for people with dementia

Typically, a person with dementia is more able to recall things from many years ago than recent memories, so reminiscence draws on this strength. Many of our day to day conversations rely on short-term memory. Reminiscence can give people with dementia a sense of competence and confidence through using a skill they still have. By sharing something from their past and another person shows interest or enjoyment, it is a great opportunity for that person to feel useful and heard.

Talking about the past can also bring up happy memories and feelings – particularly important with current restrictions and uncertainties!

Questions: Hints & Tips

“Do you remember when…?” is the question many people might think to start with for reminiscing. However, it might not be the best starting point for a person with memory problems. Plain, factual questions can be particularly challenging and stressful for people with dementia, who may fear they will get the answer wrong or be embarrassed about not being able to remember. These are some questions to avoid “how many children did you have?”, “where were you born”, “how old were you when…..?”

So what is the alternative to asking questions like this? A good starting point might be to share a memory yourself or a photograph of one of our objects as a way of leading into asking a question more gently. This gives clues for the sorts of things you will talk about – and always the person to relax and recall their memories more easily, without fear of mixing things up or forgetting.

What else can you use for remembering?

If you can’t see an object or topic here, please try our collections page for more images from our collection. Alternatively, using google images or real objects in the house. For instance, a gardener might enjoy potting plants, or a writer a notepad and pen!


We are reliant on your feedback to improve our resources and to create new ones in the future! After using this loan box/reminiscence resource please take a few minutes to complete this evaluation form – Reminiscence at Home Feedback Form

or email us with any comments –

Further Resources

NMMS has a wealth of materials available. Please have a look at our Collection pages for more photographs from our collection here or if you are looking for something in particular please contact our Education team.


Further Information & Support

Alzheimer Scotland –,reminiscence%20draws%20on%20this%20strength

Dementia UK –

Please note NMMS is not responsible for third party websites or their materials.



Memories in Your Hands – Reminiscence/ Loan Boxes



Please note our Loan Box service is currently unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions however, we are happy to share photographs for reminiscence or educational purposes. Please contact our Education Department for further information.


The National Mining Museum Scotland has a range of different loan boxes available for community groups, care homes and schools/educational groups to borrow for free.

The Memories in Your Hands loan boxes were all developed to support reminiscence work in day and residential care settings throughout Scotland. Many care professionals were consulted during the development of the resources and since 2011 we have received great feedback from all our users.

Why not take a memory trip down memory lane or find out more about living and working conditions from years gone by? All our loan boxes contain original objects, photographs, clothing and other memorabilia to share, stimulate discussion and engage groups with Scotland’s vast mining heritage.

All our resources are free for groups to borrow.

Memories in Your Hands

These boxes have been specifically designed for reminiscence purposes. All boxes come with a trolley, a plaid rug for displaying purposes and a handling cushion to help users hold and touch objects comfortably and safely. This project was funded by the Museums Association’ Effective Collections grant scheme.

Home Sweet Home




Time Out – Leisure

The Bevin Boys and WW11

Loan boxes

In addition to the Memories In Your Hands boxes, the below are suitable for schools, youth and community groups:

General Mining


Industrial Archaeology (created in association with Archaeology Scotland)

Display Case

The Wee Hutch

This mobile museum case is shaped like a coal hutch. It can be borrowed to make a special display.


Please contact our Education Manager to check availability and book a loan box.


Further Information for New Users


One of our reminiscence boxes, Time Out.

One of our reminiscence boxes, Time Out.


Memories In Your Hands was funded by the Museums Associate Effective Collections Grant Scheme. Images of domestic products are used by kind permission of North Lanarkshire Council Museums Service. Images of domestic interiors were taken in the miners’ rows at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life and are used by kind permission of NLC Museums Service.

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