I had the luck to work at Pam Schweitzer's Reminiscence Theatre Archive at the University of Greenwich from September 2013 to May 2014. Pam asked me to talk my experience in the launching of the archive in June 2015. For me, the archive is like a box full of hidden surprises.
When I came back to teaching EFL in Spain, I decided to start a project with my students based on this marvellous archive. I chose "What did you do in the War, Mum?" because it was one of my favourites. For me, reading about the experiences of all these women was a real eye-opener.

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With Pam Schweitzer and Ross Crosby, looking at the contents of one of the boxes

You can read more about this wonderful experience here. Thank you Pam for all the things I have learned with you.

To read more about the "What Did You Do In The War, Mum?" project, you can visit the Reminiscence Theatre Archive Website

The room where the boxes are stored at the Drama Department of the University of Greenwich

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The box containing the War Mum project

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Some of the contents of the box

All the photos above by Lorenzo Hernandez

Pan Schweitzer introducing the Reminiscence Theatre Archive, encouraging us to explore it.


The beginning

This unique archive is a complete record of the Reminiscence Theatre productions created between 1983 and 2005, during which time Pam Schweitzer was Founder and Artistic Director of Age Exchange Theatre Trust. It covers professional shows, shows by older people, inter-generational shows and it includes local, national and international projects. The archive contains the memories of the elderly people involved and also documents how those memories were transformed into performances.

This archive was created in order to keep safe all the material Pam Schweitzer had collected throughout the years since she founded Age Exchange Theatre Trust in 1983. After consulting many museums, archives and other organizations which could be interested in housing the material, the University of Greenwich was finally chosen to hold the whole collection and indeed to use it to develop reminiscence theatre courses involving a high degree of practical experience.
Pam and Alex Schweitzer deliver the first archive boxes to the University of Greenwich

Archive material sorted by project

Current work.

Dr Heather Lilley and Dr Harry Derbyshire are the custodians of the archive at the University and are coordinating its development. This involves the preservation, archiving and digitising of the holdings; creating and facilitating research projects; and also embedding the archive within the teaching and learning activities of the Drama programme.

One of the major strands of activity has been the creation of the Reminiscence Theatre Archive Company (RCA CO). The company, lead by Dr Heather Lilley, enables volunteers to collaborate with Pam Schweitzer in creating new performance work from the archived material.

Future for the Reminiscence Theatre Archive.

The acquisition and digitisation of the archives of the European Reminiscence Network, a research resource that will significantly expand the training opportunities for Reminiscence Theatre practitioners on an international level is planned for 2015-2016. An international conference organised in June 2014 (“Remembering Yesterday, Caring Today”) brought together practitioners and academics to share experience and this event coincided with the launch of the new archive website, creating fresh networks to generate innovative ideas and disseminate extant good practice.

Source: www.reminiscencetheatrearchive.org.uk



Staff Contributors

Dr Heather Lilley, Programme Leader for Drama and Director of the Reminiscence Theatre Archive Company

Since joining the University of Greenwich in 2007, I have worked collaboratively with Pam Schweitzer to continue and expand the reach of Reminiscence Theatre into the community, training volunteers to perform plays based on the memories of a target audience of older people. Establishing a home for her Reminiscence Theatre Archive at the University has allowed us to deepen our relationship and expand the scope of our work. In return for providing a secure and sustainable home for the archive, we have gained an invaluable source of material that has enlivened many aspects of our work, including: theatre, history, age-related and interdisciplinary research projects crossing Humanities, Social Sciences, Law and Healthcare; the training of volunteers; the creation of new theatre productions; our relationship with the local community - particularly residents of Greenwich and Woolwich’s Sheltered Housing Units - and with many international reminiscence theatre practitioners and dementia care workers.

Our aim is not only to preserve the materials contained within the archive – through cataloguing and digitising – but also to facilitate access to them and put them to active use for the benefit of our students and the wider community.

We have given volunteers access to the archive to provide source materials for new devised work. By doing this, we aim to make the archive a living collection, with volunteers reinterpreting and re-embodying the historical accounts contained within it. An integral part of volunteers’ work on the archive is the creation of performances for older people, exploring the potential to re-use collected memories contained within the archive for their original purpose.

The arrival of the archive within the University also presents the opportunity to assess what ongoing benefits might be elicited, not only in terms of the so-far fairly small body of academic research into reminiscence theatre (as opposed to reminiscence and dementia care, a much more fully developed area), but in terms of the experience and education of students working within the applied field and, potentially, the experience of older people in the community.

Dr Harry Derbyshire, Programme Leader for English and Chair of the European Reminiscence Network

It's been my pleasure to work with Pam Schweitzer since 2005, when I first took a group of students to work with her in Blackheath. As my appreciation of her unique expertise and accomplishments grew, it was my privilege to help Pam gain the status of Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Greenwich; in return I took up the role of Chair of the European Reminiscence Network, the organisation through which Pam's work continues at both a national and international level. We have been very lucky to be able to call on Pam's expertise on the specialised and painstaking work of reminiscence theatre and about creating effective drama generally. The idea of bringing Pam's archive to Greenwich has been in the air for many years, and it's a great pleasure to see the plan finally realised; it is an invaluable and fascinating resource which will enrich our students' experience and offer the opportunity for all kinds of exciting research initiatives.


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Source : http://www.reminiscencetheatrearchive.org.uk/page/production-6