‘I think I know a little bit about that anyway, so it’s okay’: Museum visitor strategies for disengaging with confronting mental health material

Lachlan Dudley


Visitor engagement at museums is an area that has received significant attention from museum practitioners and academics over the last decade. However, very few studies have sought to understand how and why visitors may actively employ strategies to shut down attempts to elicit deep emotional engagement with museum material and messages. This paper looks at an exhibition in a major museum in Australia that discusses mental health and illness. It discusses the high rates of emotional disengagement that were found amongst 172 visitors who were faced with emotionally confronting material and argues that emotions enabled, as well as hindered, constructive, critical reflection amongst visitors.

Key words: Mental-health, Museums, Engagement, Disengagement, Empathy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v15i2.839

Copyright (c) 2017 Lachlan Dudley

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360