Increasingly, museums have begun to grapple directly with complex issues — climate change, residential schools, refugees, systemic racism — in deeply purposeful ways. However when they do so, they also encounter the trauma that is interwoven with these themes: personal trauma, cultural trauma, intergenerational trauma. And this trauma is not easily managed. Visitors can be traumatized or re-traumatized when visiting exhibits and galleries. Staff can be vicariously traumatized by interactions with visitors and directly traumatized by colleagues. Leaders and managers can be traumatized by organizational turbulence, burnout, and emotional fatigue. Everyone can find themselves struggling with strong emotions and uncertain pathways.
As a consequence of these risks and opportunities, museums have begun to develop trauma-informed practices to help navigate trauma safely and effectively. In these sessions, participants will learn about the basic dynamics of trauma, how these dynamics play out in museum settings, and how organizations can develop and sustain practices to minimize the risks of ongoing harm to everyone.
Especially now — during a time of emotional stress due to the pandemic and at a time when dealing with complex issues has become a priority for museums — how can museum professionals stay emotionally healthy? How might museums develop strategies to ensure that employees don’t slide into trauma or deep distress? How can museums promote wellness and resilience within their organizations and for their communities? The training sessions address these questions by providing participants with strategies for cultivating mental health and wellness, building capacity, and cultivating healthy outcomes for everyone.
This training emphasizes the various dimensions of trauma awareness in the design of museum exhibitions and explores considerations for emotional safety when visitors are interacting with exhibitions that might provoke strong emotional reactions. The content includes the following themes:
- What is trauma?
- How is trauma connected to themes such as mental illness, addiction, racism, poverty, and similar challenges?
- What are the risks for museums in exhibiting content that is likely to provoke traumatic responses in visitors?
- How can museums mitigate these risks?
- How does trauma healing work?
- What can museums do to encourage trauma healing in their exhibitions?
- What can museums do to help staff manage emotionally charged situations in the research or curation process, on the museum floor, with community partners, or within the organization generally?
- How can museums cultivate emotional safety, belonging, and trust to help heal trauma in their communities?
This training takes place either virtually or in-person over the course of three sessions of 90 minutes each.
The base fee for this training is $4500 (plus GST and travel, if required). This includes:
- consultations to prepare for the sessions and set the groundwork for a positive experience for participants;
- facilitation of the sessions via Teams, Zoom, or in-person;
- consultation on matters involving trauma-aware exhibition design (up to 3 hours), to ensure alignment between the training and the onsite experiences of staff and visitors.
This type of training is more complex, and more dynamic, than typical professional development seminars involving presentations and content delivery. This is much more personal, and perhaps more challenging for some people. It’s important to be careful in doing this kind of training; you can make things worse while trying to make them better. These considerations entail an approach that is flexible as well as mindful.
Subsequent to these introductory sessions, many organizations choose to complete the mental health skills training, which provides a more detailed context for developing practical strategies to deal with emotionally charged situations.