Developing a Culture for Museums in Health and Wellbeing: Mentalizing, the inside story (LS-ME-560)

This learning scenario, created by Katerina Mavromichali, an archaeologist-museologist and art therapy counsellor, is inspired by the ways culture contributes to the efficiency of education and creative health and aspires to encourage synergies, interaction and co-creation.

The birth of an idea

In today’s interconnected environment, a new third space of operation and innovation has been created at the intersection of arts, health and humanities. An interesting aspect of this dimension is for example, the important information that can be infused from neuroscience into art therapy and subsequently to museum practice regarding relationships, resilience, creativity, emotions, cognition, and action. Through a rich and enthusiastic engagement with museum research, learning and outreach work, the author of this learning scenario captured the crucial role of creative public health, and got involved in the fast-growing field of health humanities, arts-in-health, and creative arts therapies. More people in the middle are needed to bring the dots together, to provide input into museums’ higher-calling to contribute to the community, to the society as a whole. This was the author’s source of inspiration towards working with children, young people and families in museums, in healthcare and outreach programmes, with art therapy as a valuable tool. Within this framework, there couldn’t be a better conceptual start of the learning scenario than that of Family Matters | Europeana and Development of brain power | Europeana.

The universal human need to form close affectional bonds, J. Bowlby

Museums are a vital part of our society.  Mentalising lies at the heart of museum practice and maintains a central role in learning too, as it provides a useful background for understanding relational experiences. A mentalising attitude, is a process, a way of thinking and looking at. It’s not about knowledge. It explores beliefs, hopes, fears, intentions, thoughts, sensations, feelings, behaviours. It’s the capacity of an inquisitive mind that embraces the art of listening and of being heard, with heart and eyes open, with imagination and playfulness, within a relationship of trust. It opens up experiences and expands awareness. On top of everything lies the key word:  empathy.

Tomorrow we make it better!

During the challenging times of the Covid 19 pandemic, we walk towards the new normal by re-prioritising physical space, making connections with the digital realm and preparing the process of welcoming back. This blended, cross-curricular, evidence-based programme locates museums in a wider strategic framework, acts as a transitional space to connect with the public on a long-term basis, creates a space for dialogue to reflect how mentalising looks like in the spirit of diversity and inclusion, and offers possibilities for creativity and change. What does really happen with the hidden stories when somebody else’s story becomes your experience?

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CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on
Europeana and has been provided by the Wellcome Collection.

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