Over the past two weekends, I’ve been visiting and exploring five of Glasgow’s top museums. Last month, Glasgow Museums read the blog post that I did on my mental health, and asked if they could work with me in exploring the effect of museums on mood and wellbeing.
They sent me some academic research on the subject, but I deliberately didn’t read it until after my museum experiences – I wanted to see and feel how the visits affected me, without anything influencing my judgement. Professor Helen Chatterjee, Head of Research and Teaching at University Collage London Public and Cultural Engagement, has been working with mental health and social care organisations to see how museum environments can stimulate cognitive function, enhance feelings of wellbeing and encourage social interaction. You can read her first report here.
For me, spending time in the quiet and ordered environment of a museum, really calms my anxiety and reduces my worries. I’ve found that being in a museum feels like an escape from the busy, chaotic outside world. I can put off my phone, concentrate on something new and put some distance between myself and my life. Museums are also full of new things to learn and discover – this occupies my mind and distracts it. Museums also give me a wider perspective on life and the world; helping to improve my mood by making me realise that I could actually have it much worse. Anyone can visit the museums that I’ve been going to in Glasgow – they cost nothing and are all disabled-friendly.
I want to introduce you to the five free museums in Glasgow that I’ve been spending time in recently. First up is probably the most well-known – Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. It’s also my favourite, as there’s so much to explore and the atmosphere is so calming. It’s been open since 1901 and has 8000 objects to look at, in 22 themed galleries. Kelvingrove is huge and you can learn about everything from dinosaurs and Ancient Egypt, to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and French Impressionist art.
My favourite gallery in the museum is the one dedicated to Ancient Egypt. I find mummies fascinating, and Kelvingrove has a great one. They also have artifacts such as a mummified head and hand, and various fascinating sarcophagus’.
The building itself makes you put things into perspective and realise how small you are in the great scheme of things. You can spend all day here; gazing at the architecture, learning new things, shopping in the fantastic gift shops and having lunch in the stylish cafe.
A relatively new museum to Glasgow is the Riverside Museum; which replaced the old Transport Museum that I used to visit as a child with my Grandparents. This museum opened in 2011 and won the 2013 European Museum of the Year Award. It is predominantly focussed on the city’s transport through the decades, but there’s also some other great exhibits such as old toys and clothing. This is a much more lively and bustling museum, that’s loved by kids; but I was still able to get lost in the history.
My favourite part of this museum is the old streets – recreated, atmospheric streets that start in the 1900s and progress through to the 1980s. I also love looking at the old trams and buses that my Nana and Grandpa would have riden around Glasgow in during the 30s and 40s. I forget everything when I’m in here, and go back in time to when life seemed simpler.
Talking of my Nana, I also visited her old school, which is now a museum. Scotland Street School Museum is a very emotive place for me as I can almost feel my Nana as a little girl in the 1930s, marching down the corridors. The architecturally-stunning building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
This museum has recreated classrooms, showing the school experience of children at this school from the 1900s, through to the Second World War and the 1950s. There’s also galleries where you can look at old school photographs, hear pupil’s stories of life there, and see other memorabilia.
Another museum that’s more about social history, is The People’s Palace. There are some great exhibits here about life in Glasgow during the Second World War; life in a cramped Glasgow tenement building in the 1930s; and in the ‘steamie’ during the 1950s. Seeing how much of a struggle life was in the city for some people, helps me to put my own problems into perspective and remember that life keeps on moving.
There is also a huge Victorian glasshouse attached, called the Winter Gardens, where you can grab a coffee and a cake, and walk around the tropical plants.
Finally, I visited the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, known as GoMA. It’s housed in a stunning 18th century building right in the middle of the city centre. It’s packed full of modern and contemporary art and sculpture, so there’s lots of colour and experimental things to see. There’s also lots of changing temporary exhibits, which allow you to discover modern artists you might never have heard of before, or to explore a social or human rights issue. This is a fun and thought-provoking place to visit and it has a happy atmosphere, as well as an amazing gift shop.
I’ve really enjoyed my experiment with Glasgow Museums and it has helped my mental wellbeing a lot. I’m going to continue switching off from my everyday stresses and having museum days. You should try it too – at the very least, you’ll learn something new.
This is a sponsored post with Glasgow Museums, but all opinions are my own.
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