Details on article

Id 183
Author Binnie, J.
Title Does Viewing Art in the Museum Reduce Anxiety and Improve Wellbeing?

Binnie, J. (2010). Does Viewing Art in the Museum Reduce Anxiety and Improve Wellbeing? Museums & Social Issues, 5(2), 191–201.

Keywords museum; viewing art; anxiety; wellbeing
Link to article
Abstract This article presents research conducted within Leicester’s New Walk Museum exploring whether viewing art within the museum impacts reported anxiety. The two studies discussed here are part of a PhD project looking at perception and expe- rience of art within the museum, and how this can influence wellbeing and affective responses. The first study looked at the responses of museum staff, while the second compared those of frequent and infrequent museum visitors. The article focuses on self-reported data collected using the State Trait Anxiety Inventory as well as through semi-structured inter- views. Participants reported a reduction in anxiety levels from their trait level after viewing the art; however, this amount dif- fered for each participant group.

Metodology A semi-structured interview was conducted throughout the ses- sion. It was expected that questions, other than those set, would emerge as the participant provided information and opinions; thus an informal and discursive manner was adopted for this interview. Once each of these had been discussed and the participant had been given the opportu- nity to make any additional comments, he or she was asked to fill out a mental wellbeing survey and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The STAI has been used extensively within other areas of research, such as to examine the impact of stress and anxiety upon learning and performance, and provides a measure of the partici- pants’ current state of anxiety (SAI) as well as their trait level of anxiety (TAI), which shows what they consider normal for them- selves. The TAI was only completed once at the start of each session, whereas the SAI was also completed at the end of the viewing session to provide comparable ratings of how the participants’ feelings alter within a particular session, which could then also be compared across multiple sessions.

Findings From the data collected within these two studies it appears that, at least for the museum visiting population, viewing art within a museum does have a positive impact upon anxiety, and thus also wellbeing. While it cannot be extrapolated from this data alone whether it is the museum environment, the artwork view, or, as is more likely, the combination of both, which is provoking this calming and relaxing effect, this data shows that by simply ask- ing participants to rate how they feel upon a recognised scale we can begin to quantify the impact. While there were several restrictions within these studies, they do illustrate that a decrease in perceived anxiety from the stresses of everyday life can be experienced. This positive experience for museums and art gallery visitors suggests that as well as being seen as educational or enjoyable places to visit, that the well-known idea that they are spaces of calm within a busy world can be true and as such museums and art galleries can be seen as places beneficial to personal wellbeing. The session lengths varied largely from 23 to 69 minutes. This was determined by the amount of time participants wanted to look at the artworks and talk for, with direct viewing of the artworks restricted to 30 minutes. Whether the participants had spent any time looking at art before the session was not controlled; howev- er, most reported informally to have come from their work envi- ronment or elsewhere outside the museum.
Open Access NO
DOI 10.1179/msi.2010.5.2.191
Search Database Researcher knowledge
Technique Qualitative methods; Semi-structured interview; Wellbeing survey;
Similar articles Analyze the document