The museum is pleasure, health and well-being

The holistic sustainability of museums: the museum is pleasure, health and well-being. Experiential wellness platforms and measuring holistic impact on the local area.

Everyone seeks to be well: yearning for emotional and social well-being is a thought that belongs to every human being. The aspiration to improve the conditions of one’s existence, the ambition for a prestigious professional career and an increase in one’s income, the sentimental fulfillment in building a family, coupled with excellent interpersonal relationships, represent a fundamental stimulus for the growth of each of us. What is somewhat more complex is to prioritize these items and determine the paths to be taken to achieve them. What is certain is that we tend to believe that economic well-being can solve any problem and that the pursuit of social success therefore concerns a large number of individuals. But can we buy happiness with money?

In more emancipated and industrialized countries, there has been a short circuit between GDP (economic accretion of the individual) and the subjective perception of universal well-being. Apparently, economic well-being not only fails to deliver on the promise of eternal happiness, but also tends to generate feelings of sadness, loneliness, distrust of the future, depressive staticity, distrust of others, fickleness and individualism. Widespread fear takes the place of joie de vivre. GDP may be considered a credible index on a rational level, but it does not take into account at all all those emotional aspects dissociated from pure materialism. The paradox is that there are some factors that, while contributing to GDP growth, are not in tune with our well-being. And vice versa1. Among the factors that are decisive for our inner and cerebral ease are also those related to the environment and the social.

In2016, within the halls of the Lu.C.C.A. Museum, in collaboration with some researchers from the CNR in Pisa, we structured a research in an attempt to compare the relationship between E.Q. (Emotional Quotient) and the degree of engagement of participants during an artistic performance. The study revealed how the more sensitive ones altered their sensory system during the performance by attributing emotional pleasure to the experience. In contrast, those whoimposed detachment, influenced by the prejudice that they could not understand a proposal considered enterprising, failed to let go and therefore found the performance boring. 2 If cultural participation occupies, after professional achievement, the second place among the elements that connote a person’s well-being some reason must be there.

The things or contexts that produce pleasure and joy are subjective. The degree of well-being can be measured as long as one fully understands the parameters that affect individual and collective (community) choices by analyzing, measuring and making corrections not only to behavioral patterns, but above all by proposing offerings in line with the new museum strategies directed at maximizing a well-being that, though temporary, can produce effects of knowledge, self-knowledge, education, information and stimulate a study that has alternative points of view than the previous ones.

An exhibition at the Lu.C.C.A. Museum.
An exhibition at the Lu.C.C.A. Museum

Everyone is a principal actor in the quest for his or her own well-being and is directly involved in the journey of improving or maintaining one’s inner health. Often, however, we confuse the mental and physical well-being achieved through sharing spiritual paths with the pleasure produced by the possession of material goods. Comfort goods can make one feel good, but they are time-limited, generally short-lived, and tend to be addictive. The inner pleasure obtained through becoming aware of our being and balancing the cognitive and emotional dimensions generates positive energies and stimulates the amygdala3.

If the resulting beauty and pleasure were reassuring and predictable, they would probably not have the effect they have on our inner being and mind. What is certain is that the source of our pleasure and well-being, like the works of art contained in a museum, can become indispensable if not left to chance, in the knowledge that the emotional response to each perceptual path is unique and unrepeatable, even if repeated a short time apart. The pleasure associated with beauty is experienced in the here and now. Indulging emotions by chasing the beauty and intensity of works of art means living reality as protagonists (and not survivors), stepping out of the comfort zone of conventions, enhancing asymmetrical thinking and not running away from the most intense well-being.

Practice oriented toward conscious paths to wellness or salutogenesis must be rooted in precise methods, without improvisation or extemporaneity, and must involve the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of each person with three precise phases:

  • propaedeutic phase: thanks to the contribution of a practitioner-conductor, people are guided through paths of meditation, reflection, breathing, self-awareness and self-awareness towards others and the context, in order to regain a balance between body, mind and soul. It is not essential to organize it within the museum’s exhibition halls.

  • Perceptual phase: this is just after the propaedeutic one. A cultural mediator (storyteller who specializes in a particular type of storytelling) transforms the museum exhibition space into a platform of experiential well-being, into a dimensional stargate where the mind, now free of daily burdens, stress, anxiety and prejudices, indulges in the sharing of a special narrative that goes far beyond a simple guided tour. Participants are also left alone for a few minutes to reflect on the works that particularly caught their attention. This phase and the previous one cannot be altered and must be consecutive.

  • Awareness stage: people are asked to express, if they are pleased to do so, thoughts and moods about the experience they have just had.

There are three paths that I have been experimenting with in recent years related to the Museum-Pleasure and Well-Being relationship: Mindful Museum, Museum Quantum Perception and Kundalini Yoga Museum.

Mindful Museum enhances the cognitive, sensory and emotional processes that people can activate in the museum before or during a perceptual experience. It opens the space between our thoughts, moods and emotions by facilitating the achievement of a dimension where reason does not restrain instinct, rationality does not stop the opening to the empire of the senses. The goal is to go beyond any prejudice and indulge the empathy that can be created with each individual work of art. A perceptual path to share in the museum an experience of well-being that can solicit the sensory apparatus with interdisciplinary proposals. Along with the sense of sight, in fact, we could also engage the visitor with acoustic directions and tactile experiments to experience, in a deeper, more conscious and complete way, the “here and now.”

Museum Quantum Perception is a project that develops from the need for reconnection to our matrix. In this age of collective dramas, the human being has found himself uprooted, helpless in the face of the rapid and violent evaporation of all his certainties. It is a time, the current one, in which interpersonal relationships are polluted by distance and distrust. A time in which fear has taken more and more space, clouding our ability to orient ourselves in life. Never more than now is it essential to reconstitute an identity based on different foundations that will define the path of the contemporary man of the future. It is imperative that new tools be provided that will help transform the current way of perceiving life and direct it toward greater awareness. An evolution of consciousness, both individual and collective. The return to our ancestral origin is a combination of exploration, reappropriation and total rediscovery of ourselves. "4 The result is a de-programming work intended to trigger the rediscovery of our antiquity from a contemporary perspective. By reactivating the connection with Pachamama, our Earth Mother, to whom we owe the origin of our physical body, the reconstruction of our roots will occur. New foundations from which to start again stronger, more aware and “lighter.”

The Kundalini Yoga Museum (KYM) or yoga of awareness, is related to the image of a snake-symbol of knowledge and transformation-which lies dormant at the base of the spine, the root and support of the organism, as a symbol of our slumbering life energy. KYM is a powerful spiritual practice that aims to generate a state of mental and physical well-being by soliciting energies and emotions in those who practice it. The first museum to offer KYM was MoMA in New York, followed by the MET - Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Again, it is not necessary to share the yoga practice within the exhibition halls, but it is important to indulge in a special subsequent visit just afterwards, in a state of grace that will allow for a unique and memorable perceptual experience.

A holistic approach within a museum sanctions the need to engage with a specific purpose: to convey psycho-physical well-being as opposed to the states of malaise brought on by stress, anxiety and loss of existential reference points in the aftermath of the pandemic. To achieve good results, various meditation and breathing techniques are used, as we have seen, which are complemented by flowing into the paths related to beauty, creativity, imagination and dreaming. These kinds of proposals are aimed at everyone, so in this case the profiling of audiences does not serve to discriminate, but simply to adapt the proposal to different age groups. We all need to relax since we all live in busyness and difficulties.

Holistic impact, somewhat like social impact, is not easy to measure because it involves intangible and highly subjective feedback. In this regard, in my direct experiences in Lucca and Bari (at the Archaeological Museum of St. Scholastica), I tried to get workshop participants to talk immediately after their experience and, for those who could not stay, I sent short questionnaires by e-mail. Certainly there is still a long way to go, but I am convinced that sharing pleasure and well-being in museums can bring great benefits not only to individuals, but also to the whole community, in respect of that common good and ethics that, for the first time, appears in the definition of a museum.


1 L. Becchetti - L. Bruni - S. Zamagni, Civil Economy and Sustainable Development. Designing and measuring a new model of well-being, Rome, Ecra, 2019, p. 15.

2 M. Vanni, Measuring Instinct and Reason, in The Museum Becomes a Business. Museum marketing for the break even of a place to be experienced daily, Turin, Celid, 2018, pp. 100-103.

3 The amygdala is a small almond that is part of the limbic system and plays the role of central mediator of emotions.

4 Ines Della Valle, a specialist in practices related to shamanism and quantum physics, gave the Museum Quantum Perception workshop at Lu.C.C.A. on June 17, 2021.

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