Can museums heal? In Quebec, a select group of doctors is testing that theory thanks to a new collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA).
Effective Nov. 1, 2018, members of the Montreal-based medical association Médecins francophones du Canada (which includes both French- and English-speaking doctors) can prescribe a free visit to the MMFA for patients suffering a range of physical and mental health ailments.
The one-year pilot project—a first in Canada—aims to gauge whether a relaxing and revitalizing encounter with art and culture can help alleviate chronic pain and boost overall well-being.
"I am convinced that in in the 21st century, culture will be what physical activity was for health in the 20th century,” notes MMFA director general and chief curator Nathalie Bondil.
The Royal BC Museum’s learning program developer Kim Gough agrees. “And while Montreal doctors may be prescribing visits, our museum actually makes house calls,” says Gough, whose Master’s research focused on the effects of different outreach programs on the well-being of seniors.
“If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you. We developed an outreach kit for seniors who are living in care facilities to encourage socialization, stimulate thinking and increase feelings of well-being.”
Each kit contains five artifacts from the Royal BC Museum’s handling collection and one reproduction item. The artifacts have been selected to represent a variety of collections at the museum and to stimulate interest and discussion among participants.
The kits can be requested by care facilities, independent living residences, seniors clubs, care providers and associations in BC. The cost is $75 plus applicable taxes for a two-week loan.