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Love in Objects

Older people collaborated with artists to reflect on their precious keepsakes and the meaning that these held for them. Boxes designed to house the treasures were then exhibited, curated by project members.

Love in Objects
  • School/Institute/Department: Centre for the History of the Emotions
  • Subjects: History, Emotions, Art, Community
  • Audience: Older people, Patients, General Public

Through the Love in Objects project, older people living in Bromley by Bow have explored the meaning of precious objects in their lives. The project is a collaborative venture between The Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary and the Bromley by Bow Centre, one of the UK’s leading regeneration charities, which has been working for thirty years with some of the poorest communities in Britain.

The project idea grew out of scholarship that looks at the importance of material culture in day-to-day life and its integral role in containing memories, generating emotions and mediating relationships. The team aimed to translate this into a project working with some of the most isolated and vulnerable older people in the community living just a stone’s throw from the university.

Project members, the eldest of whom was almost 90, took part in weekly workshops and reflected on precious keepsakes or treasures and the meaning that these objects held for them. People chose a range of objects. For example, some selected things that had been given as gifts, such as jewellery from children or partners. Others spoke about objects that reminded them of time spent with loved ones such as a Frank Sinatra CD or a small memento of Salisbury Cathedral, and others selected things they had made, including knitted children’s bootees and decorations for the Queen’s jubilee.

Project members then worked with professional artists to design and build decorated ‘love boxes’ to house their objects or representations of them. The boxes were made using a variety of artistic techniques such as marbling and were decorated with images, personal histories and photographs.

The project members also enjoyed a visit to the William Morris Gallery and in another session explored historic images and films of east London to think about the emotional connections between places and objects.

The ‘love boxes’ and objects were recently displayed in an exhibition, curated by project members, at the Bromley by Bow Centre.

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