As trusted community partners, museums are often seen as refuges from daily stressors and creative outlets that spark imagination. Recent research also supports these outcomes, finding museum visits contribute to reductions in anxiety and depression and increased cognitive function, feelings of social inclusion, and happiness.
And with more than 1 in 5 adults living with a mental illness, according to the CDC, many museums are increasingly recognizing the importance of proactively addressing mental health needs and exploring ways to support guests’ well-being in both their exhibition content and design.
Prompting Courageous Conversations
Kentucky Science Center’s newly opened “Uniquely Human” gallery dives deep into providing an experience where challenging, courageous conversations about identity, community, and shared humanity can occur, with the assistance of a scientific lens. This newly opened Roto project offers several exhibits like “On a Spectrum” that moves guests to think beyond binary categories to consider a full spectrum of beliefs. Responses are captured and anonymously displayed to allow visitors to see their own unique “fingerprint” and how it compares to a community of responses.
“XOXO: An Exhibit About Love & Forgiveness” is a popular traveling exhibit from Pittsburgh Kids Design that encourages visitors to breathe deep and explore feelings such as sadness, anger, and happiness. Using facial expressions, writing exercises, maker stations, and physical activity, guests connect while navigating communication, cooperation, and their thoughts about love and forgiveness.
Creating a Safe Place for Conversation
The Science Museum of Minnesota’s “Mental Health: Mind Matters” is another traveling exhibition that explores the stigmas and misperceptions around mental illness using interactives and empathy-building experiences. The exhibition offers safe spaces to discuss emotions as well as a resource center that highlights healthcare professionals that can offer mental health support.
Museum Staff Matter Too
Understanding guests aren’t the only audience that interacts with exhibition content or are in need of mental health support, many museums are also devoting time and resources toward museum staff. Whether it’s providing support and space to process emotionally difficult subject matter or simply reinforcing positive mental health behaviors, museums continue to create spaces of refuge for our communities.
Museums and other cultural institutions are increasingly leaning into their inherent ability to contribute to communities’ overall health and well-being in both qualitative, and as studies are now showing, quantifiable ways. Roto is proud to partner with organizations who are taking holistic, intentional approaches and building the ways museums can support the greater well-being of all through their work.