Reflection of a Work Under Construction

By Callie Montalvo

As my last finals week comes to an end, there is always a point where I take a break from my work and reflect. Since I am the only MCOMMer that has not defended her thesis yet, I look back on what I have accomplished during my time in the Museum Studies program. Learning more about how museums are becoming more accessible to the pubic, I have come to realize that there are still some museums that haven’t taken a dive in being a more open space for discussion on issues that affect them or their communities. That has been where my thesis has begun its journey. Through my other posts, you are able to see how I have changed my direction to now discussing how museums can engage and become more accessible to those visitors who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Student working on art project at the Timothy School for Autism.

In the beginning of my research, after coming into the fall semester with this shift in focus, I really felt that I needed to define the PTSD, taking it out of this negative light and stigma that it has been in for a long time. Also, in gaining more experience making things more accessible to visitors, I decided to add on another class with in the Art Education department here, at UArts, called Art and Inclusion Education. This class discussed many different types of disabilities from physical and visual to cerebral palsy and emotional behavior disorders. We learned about the definitions outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the causes, adaptations that can be made in the classroom. We also got a chance to go out into the community to observe and have hands on experiences in classes, inclusive and non-inclusive, with students with disabilities. Along the way, I got a chance to talk with a few museum and social work professionals about individuals with PTSD and other emotional behavioral disorders (EBD), in the context of being in a classroom and in the museum. 

Some of my major findings seem to me, quite simple. When we look at the definition and characteristics of both PTSD and EBD, there are many instances where they overlap. However, PTSD isn’t outlined in reference to EBD or at all in ADA or IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). When I came to this revelation, it seems to be such a great connection to take on when discussing PTSD. It also brings us to a particular point 
that PTSD and EBD are both hard to trace in a person. There can be various characteristics that one with either of these disorders can exhibit. Another finding is the idea of museums being a third space for their audiences. What I mean by that is museums can be a third space to discuss issues that individuals with PTSD face, such as violence, abuse, natural disasters and terrorist attacks. 

Unfortunately, the challenge of this topic is that there are very little resources. I have found a few museums and galleries that have exhibited or created a program, mainly visual art, that have themes about these issues. One of them is called ENOUGH Violence – Artists Speak Out, which is currently on display in Pittsburgh at the Society of Contemporary Crafts. In this exhibition, artists created pieces of work that illustrated a particular type of violence, while also spreading awareness and creating a dialogue on this issue. (Attached, I have included their opening video).

This topic is somewhat specific and is a vital topic to put out there for discussion. If museums want to become more accessible to everyone, we, as museum professionals, need to be aware of the various pieces to the puzzle, which make up our communities,. Aside from living and breathing museums, I have learned quite a lot more about museum field, especially the hands-on experience in and outside the classroom this semester. From my involvement in multiple projects and studies, I hope to continue my career with accessibility in museums, as well as looking forward to crossing the finish line – defending my thesis. 

Also, if anyone would like to check out the presentation I had made for my art and inclusion education course titled: An Inclusion Curriculum for Visitors with Behavior & Emotional Disturbance Disorder in the Museum. This presentation defined Emotional Behavioral Disorders and PTSD, as well as creating art activities for this audience in the museum. Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions!