What it means

The National Wellness Institute (NWI) defines “wellness as an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” And wellness can be understood against various dimensions, including the spiritual, emotional, mental/intellectual, social/relational, environmental, and physical.

Today, it is not uncommon for businesses, organizations, and academic institutions to consider additional dimensions or wellness-based elements for their institutions. Whether the organization thinks about wellness using the six dimensions from NWI or an expanded menu, wellness offers a deeper and more holistic view of a person’s health and well-being, moving away from one singular vantage point, for example physical health, to other considerations such as social connections, relationships, or spirituality.

Wellness for museums inspires a fuller, more complete view and understanding of their staff, audience, and community.
As noted by the International Audience Engagement Network (IAE), “museums have an active role to play in responding to and sustaining the various wellness needs of our communities.”

How it’s used

Wellness can be considered both a mindset and a framework for museums, assisting them in engaging and understanding their staff and volunteers, audiences, and the communities the museum serves.

The wellness mindset provides the museum with an expanded understanding, moving from a singular consideration to a pluralistic one. An example of the wellness mindset might encourage the museum to consider the negative impact of loneliness during the pandemic on individuals and their relationships with their friends, family, and neighbors (social). Looking at another dimension, people’s fitness activities were also forced to change during the pandemic (physical). In considering yet another dimension, many were no longer able to attend religious activities at their houses of worship (spiritual).

The wellness framework allows the organization to consider, plan for, and where possible, address an expanded range of needs for museum staff and volunteers, audiences, and community. A wellness framework encourages the museum to expand its offerings and create opportunities for group participation so that the individual can socialize with family and friends (social). The museum could include the step counts for its exhibitions (physical). In considering the religious needs of its audiences (spiritual), the museum might consider altering its food options.

The IAE provides a wellness-based framework for museums to further assist them in planning and addressing their staff, audience, and community’s holistic needs.

Why it matters

A wellness mindset and framework provides the museum and its staff with an expanded view of the needs of staff, audiences, and communities. Putting a wellness framework into practice can make people feel nourished and more satisfied with their museum experience, thus encouraging greater visitation and engagement. Wellness moves the discussion beyond the primary consideration of common touchpoints to a broader perspective of each group’s holistic needs and motivations. This allows the museum to better plan, engage with, and meet those needs and expectations.

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