The relation between the museum experience and the individual psychological well-being of museum-goers. Two studies.
Book: Doctoral Thesis
The museum has now been recognized as a powerful resource for local development, both from an economic and a social point of view. Museums can support local economic development through their backing of creative economic activities, in addition, their creation of job opportunities. The role of museums has also been emphasized in dimensions such as education, the creation of social capital and, recently, well- being and health. This does not mean that museums have to change their mission in favour of an extrinsic function, but rather that they must be aware of their intrinsic power, respecting the nature of the institution while also developing behaviours to catalyze the emergence of such effects. The knowledge of their potential impacts
helps museums themselves to avoid being exploited by governmental organizations, which would move them away from their core values and mission. That is why we need to study the relationship between museums and their impacts.
Contrary to what is happening within education and visitor studies, the museum as an environment related to well-being is not recognized around the world. Even with the growing interest in the relation between culture and health, the attention paid to the rapport between museum experience and the subjective well-being of visitors remains limited. The majority of existing studies are focused on measuring the well- being outcomes of museum activities that are specifically designed for people in care in a clinical setting. Furthermore, they are almost all conducted in the United Kingdom, while the Mediterranean region is neglected.
This thesis aims to expand our understanding of the relation between museum experience and the psychological well-being of museum-goers in the Mediterranean region by focusing on two basic questions: 1) is there a relation between museum experience and the psychological well-being of museum users? 2) if there is, how can the museum foster it? This research is composed of two different papers on two different case studies carried out in the Mediterranean region. The museums where I conducted the studies differ from one to another in context, museology and activities offered. In the first study, I analyse the rapport of a participatory museology experience and the psychological well-being of museum users in a rural area. In the second one, I explore the relationship between museum experience and the subjective psychological well-being of visitors in an urban context.
The studies develop a theoretical framework explaining three elements of the phenomenon: the user’s characteristics and background, the museum experience, and the determinants of psychological well -being, from a comprehensive perspective that integrates the well-being approach in visitor studies. The two empirical studies are conducted on the basis of this theoretical development, with conclusions drawn from surveys and statistical approaches.
On the one hand, both the studies reveal that there is indeed a relation between the museum experience and the subjective perception of museum-goers’ psychological well-being. On the other hand, each study underlines different relevant aspects in this relationship, which in turn depend on the context, the particular museology and the audience.
These conclusions have important implications for the academic studies, the museum sector, as well as for policy development in relation to culture and health.