In honor of International Day of Happiness, I thought it would be a great idea to celebrate some research that I found that supported visiting museums makes people happier.
By Director of Education Mary Ladrick
When I planned this blog it was with the intention that this would entice you, dear reader, to come visit the MSV with renewed interest and passion. Little did I know that there would be a pandemic that would require a temporary closure of the MSV.
The theme for International Day of Happiness 2020 is “Happier Together” in celebration of our common humanity. Though we can’t physically be “happier together” right now in consideration of social distancing, I believe that museums still have the power to connect us to powerful experiences that enhance our happiness. And who can’t use a little extra happiness right now?
I referenced research that shows that people who go to museums are happier. Yes – it’s true! A 2013 report by English economist Daniel Fujiwara found that “visiting museums has a positive impact on happiness and self-reported health…” The author also cites studies that have found positive impacts on wellbeing from participating in the arts, such as a decrease in perceived pain while viewing art and an increase in life satisfaction and health status after interacting with museum objects. In my 15 years of gallery teaching with people of all ages, I can tell you anecdotally that experiencing art and objects does indeed make people happy.
Students checking out some of our touchable gallery objects, including this bar of Ivory soap from the 1930s.
Now I’m not trying to torment you because you can’t visit a museum right now – this is a post about happiness! Though brick and mortar museums may currently be closed, there are still a lot of opportunities available to explore the arts and humanities. The MSV is planning to do some online programming – perhaps a virtual tour of an exhibition, some object talks, and some behind-the-scenes peeks. While we get that up and running, you can explore objects in our collection online here. You will find thousands of beautiful objects and artwork from the Valley and beyond.
Another great resource for virtual tours of museums all over the world is Google Arts and Culture (https://artsandculture.google.com/partner). How would you like a virtual tour of the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands? It offers over 300,ooo works of art online, most of which are “open content” – meaning that you can download them and use them free of charge. If you became a fan of Rembrandt and his contemporaries during our recent exhibition of etchings from the Dutch Golden Age, the Rijksmuseum has an amazing collection of works from that era like this one:
While you’re virtually in Amsterdam, you can check out the Van Gogh Museum too.
Or head over to Italy to visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Closer to home, you can find The Met and MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, and so many more. Google Arts & Culture currently has over 2,000 partner museums in more than 80 countries.
Many other museums have their collections online and offer virtual tours on their websites as well. A helpful hint for those of you who have children home from school, some museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum, offer tips and lessons on their websites to build an object or could possibly be a video that tells a historical story.
So take time this International Day of Happiness to look at some art that connects us across space and time to the beauty of the human existence. Though we may be “social distancing” at the moment, museums can still make us “happier together.” And because looking at art on a screen can never replace the experience of seeing it in person, I look forward to seeing you and furthering your happiness at the MSV soon.
Photos, top down; MSV Makerspace attendant Marshall M. celebrates First Night Winchester at the Museum of the Shenanadoah Valley. ;Chinese Porcelain from the MSV Julian Wood Glass Jr. Collection, including a Pair of Beaker Vases from the Kangxi period, 1662–1722; a Beaker Vase from the Qianlong period, 1736–95; and a Gourd Vase from the late 1800s. MSV benefactor Julian Wood Glass Jr. (1910–1992) adored his blue-and-white porcelains, which he carefully arranged on the shelves in his library. Photo by Ron Blunt. The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer, c. 1660, Oil on canvas, h 45.5cm × w 41cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Wheatfield under Thunderclouds, Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890, Oil on canvas, 50.4 cm x 101.3 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).