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