Imagine a motion picture being filmed – with the usual investments of creativity, time, and money. Imagine the film receives rave reviews for its stirring emotional content and the deep connection it creates with viewers. Now, imagine that the film only plays in 2-3 theaters because there is only one physical copy, and little awareness of the film. The film does not reach its full audience potential.
This describes the current situation of exhibits about mental health. Impressive creative and clinical talent is expended to create one physical exhibit. The exhibit’s effects, while profound, are then limited to audiences at one or several locations. How can exhibits about mental health have widespread national impact? By spreading awareness and know-how about these exhibits to increase the number of exhibits and their distribution, and through the use of research to demonstrate their impact.
1.) Quantitative & semi-quantitative research methodologies can be used to measure and optimize the visitor-level psychological, pedagogical, and attitudinal impacts of exhibits about mental health.
An informal survey could be administered wherein a visitor gets a limited space to write about the exhibit prior to exiting. A human coding system could be used where a list of pre-determined “key” words/phrases that are commonly associated with mental health are detected and counted in each survey. Such words would be pre-determined based upon words/phrases commonly associated with mental health. For example, a pre-determined term could be the word, “help.” If the survey’s content includes the word, “help,” it could be an indication that the exhibit had an impact in the way it was meant to. The more key terms in the survey, the greater the indication of success. A control in this study would be administering the same survey at a different exhibit.
2.) Societal impacts will occur as a function of the number of visitors who experience exhibit effects. The greater the number, the larger the impact on society. The most effective strategy involves bringing the exhibits to the visitors, such as through a National Museum of Mental Health (NMMH). See Concept Statement.
Mental Health: Mind Matters, Science Museum of Minnesota
Image used with permission from the Science Museum of Minnesota