Can Museums Help Visitors Thrive? Review of Studies on Psychological Wellbeing in Museums
2. Aim of Study
- Can museums increase the visitor’s psychological wellbeing?
- How can the museum experience be designed to enhance the psychological wellbeing of the visitors and how can that potentially be measured?
3. Materials and Methods
4.1. Museum as a Restorative Environment
- Function of the object is determined by its location;
- Traffic in museums moves in clockwise direction;
- Similar objects have decreasing attraction for visitors;
- Objects on the left side of the room are looked at less;
- Exit attracts visitors away from nearby objects and signals the end of exploration and curiosity.
- Colour brightness and saturation may be used to increase pleasure;
- Temperature should be set between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius;
- Increased intensity of light is pleasant, but glare or discontinuities in lighting are unpleasant;
- Sound should be simple and not variable;
- The more objects the museum has, the less time visitors will spend looking at each object;
- Label information should be provided;
- To increase the viewing time, similar objects should be added.
- The presence or absence of colour, distortion, style, and exaggerated scale signal the status of the object;
- Space should be organized in terms of boundaries, rhythms, tempos, and relationships among objects and between objects and people to communicate meaning;
- Object handling should be allowed, as well as enthusiastic expressions and energetic movement to stimulate participation.
4.2. Participation and Wellbeing
“…when individuals interact with museums and collections, it is the intrinsic physical and material properties of the objects they encounter that trigger memories, projections, sensory, emotional, and cognitive associations. Museum objects may function as symbols for aspects of people’s lives such as identity, relationships, nature, society, and religion; these symbolic and meaning-making properties could account for their therapeutic potential; and the physical, cognitive and emotional interactions elicited by these multisensory object engagements have been identified as the unique value that museums can bring to public health interventions.” (p. 34)
4.3. Happier Sustainable Society
4.4. Measuring Psychological Wellbeing
4.5. Examples of Psychological Wellbeing in Museums
4.5.2. DIY Heritage Institutions: Australian Jazz Museum
4.5.3. Wellbeing Policy Framework: New Zealand and Scotland
5.1. Museum Design for Psychological Wellbeing
5.2. Differences in Museum Visitors and Psychological Wellbeing
5.3. Measuring Museum Impact and Policy Framework
5.4. Limitations and Future Directions
- Attractive Museums
- Place objects in a strategic way (e.g., similar objects should be placed away from each other, objects should be placed on the right side of the room because movement occurs in a clockwise direction across the room).
- Be aware that exits attract visitors away from nearby objects and signal the end of exploration and curiosity.
- Comfortable Museum
- Use colour and brightness to affect pleasure.
- Set museum temperature between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius.
- Use increasing light intensity without discontinuities in lighting.
- Use the simple sound of decreased loudness with less variability.
- Encourage visitors to take regular breaks by providing, e.g., cafes, lounge areas.
- Comprehensible Museum
- Place fewer (but related) objects in the room to increase the viewing time.
- Provide label information.
- Use colour, distortion, style, and exaggerated scale to communicate the status of the object.
- Organize space in terms of boundaries, rhythms, tempos, and relationships among objects and between objects and people to communicate meanings and purposes.
- Participative Museum
- Allow for object handling.
- Allow for enthusiastic expressions and energetic movement to stimulate participation.
- Encourage visitors to reflect on their experience.
- Offer opportunities for collaboration and interaction between the visitors.
- Offer volunteering opportunities.
- Enable the creation of DIY exhibitions to engage the community.
- Innovative Museum
- Evaluate your success based on how your work affects your visitors (Does it make them happier? Does it change their lives?).
- Use digital tools to support well-being beyond the local community.
- Find your niche.
- Connect the psychotherapeutic principle and objects to start conversations about psychological challenges.
- Sustainable Museum
- Value the environment, the past, the present and the future.
- Offer a combined arts and nature experience by utilizing the museum’s outdoor space or nearby parks.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Kaplan, Bardwell and Slakter||The Restorative Experience as a Museum Benefit||1993 |
|Kaplan, Bardwell and Slakter||The Museum as a Restorative Environment||1993 |
|Chryslee||Creating Museums That Change People’s Lives||1995 |
|Chatterjee, Vreeland and Noble||Museopathy: Exploring the Healing Potential of Handling Museum Objects||2009 |
|Binne||Does Viewing Art in the Museum Reduce Anxiety and Improve Wellbeing?||2010 |
|Packer and Bond||Museums as Restorative Environments||2010 |
|Thompson and Aked||The Happy Museum: A tale of how it could turn out all right||2011 |
Thomson and Chatterjee
|Touching Heritage: Community Health and Wellbeing Promotion through Sustainable and Inclusive Volunteer Programming in the Museums Sector||2013 |
|Fenton||Museums, participatory arts activities and wellbeing||2013 |
|Thomson and Chatterjee||Measuring the impact of museum activities on well-being: developing the Museum Well-being Measures Toolkit||2015 |
|Thomson, Lockyer, Camic and Chatterjee||Effects of a museum-based social prescription intervention on quantitative measures of psychological wellbeing in older adults||2017 |
|Thomson, Morse, Elsden and Chatterjee||Art, nature and mental health: assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a ‘creative green prescription’ museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking, and collections||2020 |
|French, Lunt and Pearson||The MindLab Project. Local Museums Supporting Community Wellbeing Before and After UK Lockdown||2020 |
|Lawler and Tissot||Preserving the intangible and immeasurable: exploring wellbeing frameworks in the museum context||2021 |
|Cantillon and Baker||DIY Heritage Institutions as Third Places: Caring, Community and Wellbeing Among Volunteers at the Australian Jazz Museum||2022 |
|Aeschbach et al.||Less is more: The Effect of Visiting Duration on the Perceived Restoratives of Museums||2022 |
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Šveb Dragija, M.; Jelinčić, D.A. Can Museums Help Visitors Thrive? Review of Studies on Psychological Wellbeing in Museums. Behav. Sci. 2022, 12, 458. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12110458
Šveb Dragija M, Jelinčić DA. Can Museums Help Visitors Thrive? Review of Studies on Psychological Wellbeing in Museums. Behavioral Sciences. 2022; 12(11):458. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12110458Chicago/Turabian Style
Šveb Dragija, Marta, and Daniela Angelina Jelinčić. 2022. "Can Museums Help Visitors Thrive? Review of Studies on Psychological Wellbeing in Museums" Behavioral Sciences 12, no. 11: 458. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12110458