Background and Purpose:

In the first half of the 20th Century, exhibits and museums educated millions of Americans about important public health issues like tuberculosis and proper sanitation. Exhibits allowed Americans to see, hear, touch and talk about models, visuals, and information, and to learn health and prevention practices. In the first half of the 21st Century, as we face health issues like mental health and wellness, it is increasingly recognized that exhibits and museums can once again serve our public health.   

 

In recent years, the potential of museums and art galleries to serve as partners in the advancement of public health has been examined and encouraged (DiGiovanni Evans, SerrillJohnson & Krucoff, 2016). It has been emphasized that museum forums are both non-stigmatizing and accessible (Camic& Chatterjee, 2013), and that museums bring considerable assets to this work, given their high credibility and their informal learning environments (Rowland, 2010). Model-building has illustrated the network of possible connections between museums, local mental health providers, and local colleges and universities (Camic& Chatterjee, 2013). Research into this developing phenomenon is largely qualitative, and often takes the form of interviews and ethnographies (e.g. Mangione, 2018). 

 

 

Our research focuses upon the impact of museum-quality exhibits about mental health, and developing a model to allow for their multiplication and optimization, both in museum settings and locations capable of reaching a broad audience. We hypothesize there is opportunity for growth in positive mental health, at the individual and societal levels, through the educational and emotional impacts of exhibitions that showcase topics on mental health and mental illness. 

Deconstructing Stigma at Logan Airport, Boston.

Image used with permission from McLean Hospital

The National Museum of Mental Health Project, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and “museum without walls” that researches and creates exhibitions that can transform society’s attitudes about, and understanding of, mental health. Through the development of online exhibits, NMMHP does what museums do best – educate, interpret, advance dialogue, and develop literacy on the topic of mental health. 

  

The Project seeks to:

  • Develop and display exhibitions by facilitating collaboration among artists, curators, mental health professionals, people with lived experience, and others who seek to share talents and knowledge.

  • Share research related to exhibits about mental health and wellness.

  • Build alliances with community, local, and national not-for-profit, for-profit, governmental, and educational entities who are similarly interested in creating positive mental health outcomes.

  • Inspire the development of a national museum of mental health.

The Project extends from a research fellowship at Assumption University.