Mindfulness & Museums: Finding New Ways of Enjoying Old SpacesMay 3, 2023
Written by: Bryan Davies
As another season changes, the Covid-19 pandemic is slowly becoming a thing of the past rather than a concern of the moment. Its impact has been devastating, with millions of people losing their lives, interpersonal relationships becoming strained, and the disposable income of many families being eroded. Facial masks became standard personal attire and people resisted crowded events. Most of us were careful to maintain a safe distance, even in smaller gatherings. This reluctance to assemble resulted in steep declines in attendance to many public spaces, museums included.
Cultural establishments like museums were especially hard hit by the pandemic. Many museums across the world were forced to close their doors, at least temporarily. Of 1,000 museums surveyed by the American Alliance of Museums, three quarters reported operating incomes falling by an average of 40% in 2020. Admission prices, deemed discretionary spending, were seen as prohibitive to struggling families. Interest in history did not wane, but the revenue needed to pay for staff and keep the doors open most certainly did. Many potential patrons switched to virtual visits from the safety and security of their home computers or participated in drive-by exhibits where offered.
Fortunately, although the pandemic may limit attendance for some time to come, most museums have managed to remain relevant and more and more people have decided to return in person. As happens so often with change, the pandemic-induced attendance plunge has triggered consideration about how to provide an enhanced experience going forward. Museum professionals had to come up with better ideas to get people back in the door. When the doors finally flung open again, it was about creating a mindful experience.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of how we think, feel, and sense our surrounding environment through a gentle, nurturing lens. As individuals, we are bombarded by competing demands, concerns, and ways to spend our money. Most of us do not allow ourselves the time or space needed to simply let go of worries about what has happened in the past and what might occur in the future, and instead simply be present. This is where museums come in. Museum visits encourage mindfulness that enables us to find calmness and inner peace as we give our undivided attention to the items on display. Museums around the world are increasingly conscious of this concept and the role they can play in mental health.
We have choices regarding how we wish to spend our free time. Visiting a museum is a very valid choice. It allows us to experience an environment that engages and informs. It teaches our children new things while encouraging an appreciation for old things. But there is another benefit; a museum visit provides an opportunity to spend bonding time with family and friends and to create memories that will last a lifetime.
We go to museums because it makes us feel good. We spend time in museums because that is where we can view exhibits that pique our interest and discover worlds we didn’t know about before. We can slow our thoughts and enjoy the moment, free of distractions and the demands made upon our time by others. We have the luxury of looking and learning in a relaxed setting. We can look at things with a fresh and unencumbered pair of eyes. That which is old is seen in a new light. We step back in time to consider the implications for where we are today.
There is no better time than now to spend time exploring the past. Most museums are not-for-profit entities and could use our support. Find a museum close to you and consider becoming an active member of the museum or plan a visit with your family or friends.
Diving Deep: A Tale of Whales Through Time is open now! Book your tickets at: www.quintemuseum.ca
A New Report Shows Museums Had A Bad Year — But Not The Worst Possible. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2021/06/01/1002077626/a-new-report-shows-museums-had-a-bad-year-but-not-the-worst-possible
Impact of the Pandemic. Retrieved from https://museums.ca/uploaded/web/New_Website_docs/UQAM_paper_Vanda_Vitali_January_2021.pdf
Museum Visits can be a Powerful Tool in the Quest for Greater Mindfulness. Retrieved from https://www.museumnext.com/article/museum-visits-tool-for-mindfulness/
What is Mindfulness? Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
10 Reasons to Visit a Museum. Retrieved from https://www.colleendilen.com/2009/07/31/10-reasons-to-visit-a-museum/