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Innovative Idea   |    
Innovative IdeasTherapeutic Aspects of Museums
Psychiatric Services 1998; doi:
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A project involving several museums and social service agencies in Bloomington, Indiana, is exploring ways in which museums can be used as resources in therapeutic programs for individuals with behavioral health problems, serious mental illness, and HIV and AIDS. Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, the project aims at bringing the benefits of museums to diverse populations and creating a forum for advancing and evaluating the use of museum resources in therapy.

A faculty member from Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation directs the project with assistance from graduate students. Three Indiana University museums—Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, the William Hammond Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and historic Wylie House, a 1835 mansion—are participating as project sites.

At Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, clients of Horizons, a partial hospitalization program for adults operated by the Center for Behavioral Health in Bloomington, volunteer to work with university students to demonstrate crafts involving plant materials for school children who visit the garden.

Older adults with behavioral health problems who are clients of the Elderhouse program of the Center for Behavioral Health participate in reminiscence sessions using a collection of photographs from the 1920s and 1930s at the Mathers Museum. Clients are working with the Mathers staff toward developing a traveling exhibit to be taken to local schools. Clients of the Public Health Nursing Association's program for people living with HIV and AIDS take tours of Wylie House as a leisure learning activity and volunteer with the museum's heirloom seed-saving project.

Researchers who are affiliated with the project hope to identify the therapeutic elements of museums so that museums can work more directly to enhance positive effects for people who visit. (Lois Silverman, Ph.D., Department of Recreation and Park Administration, Indiana University, HPER Building 133, Bloomington, Indiana 47405)

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