Challenges of mental health and lockdown explored in new Perth Living Museums exhibition
6 September 2021
A new exhibition from young people involved in our Living Museums participation project has opened at Perth Museum.
Members of the Perth project group marked the launch of Our Lockdown Journey: Facing the Unknown through Creativity last Wednesday evening (1 September).
As part of Living Museums, which examines how to make museums and heritage sites more relevant and accessible to young people, the group chose to focus on the theme of young people's mental health during lockdown.
The exhibition has been created in the style of a young person’s bedroom, displaying items that supported the mental health of group members during the pandemic and reflecting a space where they’d spent the vast majority of their time over the past year.
A common space
The bedroom was described by one of the young people involved as “our hub”, and they stressed that “it was really good to portray what that environment was like.”
Members of the group had identified that museums could be overwhelming spaces, and accessibility was a key consideration throughout the project and the launch event.
In response to this, a sensory space in the museum, co-produced by the young people and Perth Museums, is in the process of being created.
Project group member Maden made a speech at the start of the event, emphasising how the group have become close friends and that being involved in the project has had a big impact on them as they realized that people have experienced common challenges.
Group member Billy, who was attracted to the project because he wanted young people to get more involved in museums said: “Initially what got me involved was pizza, but over time I got interested.”
Discussing the project, group members Becky and Vicky said they felt like young people weren’t the target audience for museums. Stigma should be removed and mental health discussed more, they said: “Museums have a power with engaging people, not only with the past but also with current events.”
Accessibility vs aesthetics
Jordan Irvine, Senior Officer, Communities and Learning, at Culture Perth & Kinross was open about the fact that museums struggle to engage with young people aged 14 – 26, and that they should be more proactive in working with them to shape exhibits.
He said he felt that accessibility is often overlooked for aesthetics, but museums want and need to overcome this. “If museums aren’t accessible for every body, what is the point in them?” he asked.
Reflecting on the launch, other museum staff were impressed by how the method of engaging young people had been used but recognized that this could take time.
Comments from staff about the exhibition included, “[it was] very creative and very real", and that it was "cool". One staff member said that they'd felt “challenged” by it because it raised issues about the accessibility of their heritage services: “why has no body thought about this before?”
Our Lockdown Journey: Facing the Unknown through Creativity is on display at Perth Museum and Art Gallery until 31st October 2021. Admission is free.