Images of the Unconscious Museum – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Atlas Obscura
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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Images of the Unconscious Museum

An overlooked collection of over 350,000 artistic works created by psychiatric patients using art therapy.  

Paintings, music, theater, and craftworks are just some of the ways mental health patients can express themselves during their art therapy classes in this museum and research center. These “images of the unconscious” allow viewers to establish a bridge between their own world and the deepest yearnings, fears, traumas, joys, and dreams of the artists.

Inspiring and colorful, the Images of the Unconscious Museum (Museu de Imagens do Inconsciente) displays an incredible collection of art as well as the research that led to a different way of approaching psychological health. The often-overlooked museum in Rio displays more than 350,000 works by patients, and historical documents about the process. 

Nise da Silveira, a pioneering female psychiatrist who introduced Carl Jung’s work to Brazil, founded the Museum of Images of the Unconscious in 1952 as a research center and collection of works created by patients. Silveira didn’t believe in the contemporary inhumane forms of treatment like electroshock therapy or lobotomization. She created a clinic where patients could freely express themselves through art.

Her research in occupational therapy brought new insights into the images of the unconscious, and she studied the emotional bond between patients and animals, whom she considered co-therapists. Silveira’s work is as important to the medical community as it is to the art world. Books, movies, and documentaries have been inspired by her research and her patients’ artworks.

Entirely dedicated to the study and research of mental health, the Brazilian museum and research center is recognized worldwide for its groundbreaking work and unique art collection. It is registered by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute.