The human mind is complex. It holds our thoughts, dreams, fears and memories. It’s where our emotions jostle with one another before they tackle logic. Anyone who wants to discover more about the human mind can visit the Melbourne Museum. It has a fascinating exhibition called The Mind: Enter the Labyrinth. It’s an exhibition that not only informs but also challenges thinking while engaging emotions.
Nurin Veis is the curator who created the exhibition. On the museum’s website she says, “The exhibition looks at the science of the mind, such as psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and mental health, but it also takes a historical perspective on these subjects as well.”
The exhibition is on the upper level of the museum. It is in a darkened space, suggesting mystery and the unknown. Nurin Veis says, “It has a very gothic feel and the experience is very much of an adventure.” As visitors wind their way around the labyrinth they encounter hundreds of displays. Some of the displays will delight, others will confront, while others play with perceptions.
The Ames room
One display that challenges perceptions is the Ames room. The room appears unremarkable from the outside except for large black and white rectangles painted on its floor. But upon entering, initial perceptions flow down the previously unnoticed slope of the floor. The exit door on the other side of the room somehow manages to be much smaller than it initially appeared. There are stairs after the exit, so people with mobility issues may need to exit through the entrance.
Tests and quizzes
Visitors can take many quick tests as they wander around the exhibits. There is a test for synaesthesia, a condition where people experience the sensation of a sense other than the one being stimulated. For example, they can smell sounds or taste words. About one in 2,000 people have the condition. The test involves staring at a chart of 5’s. Some of the 5’s will change to 2’s for most people, but a person with synaesthesia will immediately see a triangle of 2’s.
Another exhibit asks visitors if they have had any of the more common dreams. Some of the usual suspects are there, but it is a surprise to discover that many people dream of their teeth falling out.
The exhibits include displays of historical treatments for mental illnesses. There are straightjackets, and electroshock therapy and lobotomy equipment. Lobotomies involved severing sections of the brain. Thousands of the procedures were done before they were finally discredited. While they made the patient docile and easier to handle, they did nothing to improve their mental health.
Another exhibit invites the public to learn more about living with a mental health condition. Small booths play short videos of first-person accounts of depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. And if a visitor saw a triangle of 2’s in the synaesthesia test, there is a video on it too.
Some of the exhibits amuse, like a Church of Scientology e-meter. It measures how sweaty people become when answering questions. The scientologists used it like a lie detector on their members or potential members.
About two hours is required to engage fully with the exhibition. There are also plenty of other exhibitions to experience while at the museum, so a day trip is recommended. Museum entry is $12 for adults, but free for those with concessions. The museum entry includes The Mind: Enter the Labyrinth exhibition. It is due to remain at the museum until 2017.
So enter the labyrinth. You may leave thinking: I’m not that different after all.