Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Museums are literally mind-expanding

Museum visitors experience self-reflection that leads to transformational learning. Source: Powerhouse Museum.

Kristin Tillotson, Museums are literally mind-expanding, researchers say, Star Tribune, 5 May 2015

Spending an hour or three at a museum is bound to increase your store of knowledge. But museum visits not only influence what we learn, but how we learn. They spark contemplation, encourage empathy, make us more curious and increase personal creativity, according to studies and audience research.

Just looking at art has value beyond the intrinsic, said Elisabeth Callihan, head of multigenerational learning for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. “People develop more self-confidence and think more creatively by interpreting works of art for themselves. And prolonged looking can lead to the kind of self-reflection that leads to transformational learning, the idea that through critical thought, you have a change in attitude or belief.”

As an example, she noted artist Cy Thao’s “The Hmong Migration,” a series of narrative paintings in the museum’s collection that depict the immigrant group’s journey from war-ravaged Laos to Minnesota.

“People who look at these paintings don’t just pick up a new fact or two,” she said. “They experience a sort of social bridging and develop new perspectives on what these immigrants have gone through.”

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