Memorabilia studies

Interviews and observations around memorabilia at home, conducted to gain deeper understanding around what people class as memorabilia and how they are used for personal reminiscing.


Where photos are created to capture evidence of an event or experience, memorabilia objects often already exist, for example, mass produced objects kept as a link to an event or experience. Objects may also have more ambiguous and abstract links to associated memories. Understanding that memorabilia can be of multiple origin, with multiple interpretation allows them to be considered differently in terms of how they might be used to cue remembering. To understand more about memorabilia, camera kits were designed to collect anecdotal evidence of the memories people associate with memorabilia.

Given to 25 people at different life stages, the kit asked them to take photographs of objects that trigger personal memories, offering space to write these memories on postcards.  The results showed the types of memories associated with objects fit into six groups that represent:

  • the special days in their life
  • achievements they had accomplished
  • the first time something happened
  • objects they had rescued
  • objects that were gifts or had been inherited
  • objects that had multiple stories associated with them



Many objects were functional tools, used everyday by the household and not found on display. Around half of the objects had associated memories describing the act of rescuing the object, or achievements and endurance where the object represented a feat. An unexpected category represented objects with multiple stories attached: either stories the owner wanted to keep secret and private, or other stories told to people which hide the truth.

Other objects were created to aid storytelling episodes, for example, one participant’s story frame of neatly cut and pasted photos where each one represented a special memory. She mentioned the time it took to make, emphasising her dedication to the project by cutting each image into exact 5cm square pieces, and how she uses the story frame to aid reminiscing with friends and family visiting her home.

Objects trigger personal memories and serve an important role in storytelling and reminiscing, where the memories people associate with an object builds and develops from the last time they were remembered, depending on the current context of remembering.  For design, exploring themes around memorabilia through these studies highlight key issues around how people keep memories alive through their association with tangible memory triggers and the behaviour people adopt for ensuring memories are not forgotten.  Through design, newly designed experiences might introduce objects, products and systems that support using technology to create new spaces for imagining and re-creating the past.


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