The BBC—in conjunction with Dundee University, the University of St Andrews, and the Alzheimer’s Society—has recently launched an online television archive called the BBC Reminiscence Archive (RemArc), a user-friendly archive of historical broadcast footage. The goal of making this footage easily and freely accessible is to allow people who suffer from dementia to watch footage or programs that may stimulate long-forgotten memories. The aim of the project is to promote dialogue between those who suffer from dementia or memory loss and their families or caregivers. This program has found that by engaging Alzheimer’s patients with historical, archival footage that helps recall moments from their past, patients are recalling memories that they didn’t realize still existed. Importantly, they’re engaging in conversation about their past, which helps improve their mood. By providing viewers with a “natural way to stimulate conversation and reminiscences,” the archive enables people suffering from dementia to involve their caregivers or family in engaging, unpredictable conversation, which can be difficult without a prompt such as RemArc to wake long-dormant memories. What was particularly interesting in the findings is that most of the RemArc users responded most strongly to clips of everyday life and news events.
After a successful pilot program in which over three-quarters of 17,000 users reported that the archive triggered long-term memories that they had long forgotten about, the BBC has decided to expand and make permanent the RemArc collection. This extensive Reminiscence Archive includes more than 15,000 television shows, news programs, images and video clips ranging from the 1950’s to the 2000’s, many of which have not been available to the public since their initial broadcasts.
What I found particularly interesting about this article is how it provided empirical evidence about how a media archive, something that I don’t normally associate with health, can be an effective tool to aid people who suffer from a prevalent and increasingly common disease like Alzheimer’s. The article cites how 850,000 people in the UK today are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a figure that is expected to increase to 1 million by 2021. This growing need, and the effective impact of the BBC’s RemArc initiative, brings to light the power that certain cultural artifacts possess, and the power that they have in being able to help foster positive effects for Alzheimer’s patients and their families and caregivers.
Ryan Marino, LIS-653-02, Spring 2017