Psychotherapeutic Object Dynamics as an Evaluation Instrument
Stories From Syria Exhibition Evaluation
Medelhavet Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, Sweden
Brenda Cowan July, 2019


A Qualitative Study of the Exhibition’s Impacts 
and the Psychological Affects of its Object-Based Experiences
on Object Donors, Museum Staff, and Visitors


Brenda Cowan's Lecture:

Världskulturmuseerna / National Museums of World Culture

 Article           Report











In this time of unprecedented global refugee crises, museums are uniquely positioned to provide forums for physical, emotional and intellectual safety, community building and healing. In participatory museum environments and processes that feature the voices of individuals, and incorporation of personal “everyday” objects, such as in the exhibition Stories from Syria, institutions are having a powerful and healthful impact on their constituencies. This study with museum visitors, staff, and Syrian object donors utilized the Psychotherapeutic Object Dynamics framework as an evaluation instrument, and found that the experience of sharing stories of meaningful everyday objects to be a profound part of trauma healing and mental wellness in participants.


The evaluation of the highly participatory Stories From Syria exhibition at Medelhavet identified where and in what ways the goals of the exhibition were met, the ways in which the museum’s relationship with their Syrian constituency have been fostered, and where and in what ways the exhibition project impacted the psychological health, healing and wellbeing of object donors, visitors and museum staff. The evaluation findings and outcomes provide a model for the broader museum community about the power of participation and co-creation, and inform the curatorial, museum education and exhibition design disciplines about the meaningfulness of ordinary/personal objects and modes of display on participant-object engagement. The evaluation also produced data that contributes to advancing scholarship related to studies in health, wellbeing and healing through exhibition experiences on museum constituents.