New Report: How Museums Are Addressing Health Issues

This week I stumbled upon Jessica Naudziunas’ NPR blog post, “How To Make Museums More Inviting For Kids With Autism.” It’s a must read. Naudziunas’ article about 3-year-old Dylan Murphy, and his mom, Noelle, warmed my heart (and kudos to the Please Touch Museum’s Play Without Boundaries Initiative).

Museums are many things (in no particular order): stewards of collections and heritage, community engagement centers, and educators (not so, according to this – but we’ll save that post for another day). Museums serve communities on many levels.  While there is constant dialogue within the museum community about meeting the needs of changing demographics, I haven’t heard much conversation around museums and health care issues, but maybe that’s just a reality in the history world. I’ve read about some Alzheimers programming at art museums and the Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens but AAM’s new study, “Museums On Call: How Museums Are Addressing Health Issues” covers so much more. The report provides an introduction to how museums are making contributions to:

  • Alzheimers
  • Autism
  • Disease Prevention
  • Health Literacy
  • Hospital Outreach
  • Medical Training
  • Mental Health
  • Military and Veterans Health
  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Visual Impairment

The study also includes a very helpful appendix including museum programs on health topics, sorted by state. To read the full report, click here. Please note: AAM states on page 2 that this report is not all encompassing. It represents a snapshot of programming and the examples described in the report were collected over a discreet four week period, May/June 2013.

So, where do you stand in this conversation? Does your institution have health care-centered initiatives? If so, are these programs facilitated by outside specialists or run by trained museum staff? What has been your experience with these programs and initiatives? History organizations – what health care initiatives are you participating in? I know we have a variety of collection types (records, objects, etc.) and that several organizations participate in Autism Speaks or host local blood drives, but if you browse through the report the majority of the institutions listed are art and science museums/centers. Is there an explanation for this?

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