Going to a Museum Could Help With Coronavirus Stress, Doctors in Brussels Say

Participating patients in a Brugmann hospital trial will be able to visit five public museums for free in Belgium.

Exterior of the Brooklyn Museum, 2018. Courtesy Brooklyn Museum. Photo by Jonathan Dorado

It’s no secret that museums have been sites of great interest and turmoil during the coronavirus pandemic: countless institutions struggled with financing and educational programs, while others served as vaccination sites. Now, however, doctors in Brussels are reframing museum visits as prescribed therapeutic tools for patients struggling with stress and anxiety at the Brugmann hospital. Within the confines of a three-month trial, participants in the study will be able to visit five public museums in Brussels for free. Next year, analyzed results of the trial will reveal whether museum visits were found to be viable treatments for acute mental distress.

The museums participating in the study include Fashion and Lace on Rue de la Violette, the Sewer museum, Manneken-Pis’s Wardrobe and the Contemporary Art Centre on Place Sainte-Catherine. As an experiment, it seems like a no-brainer: who wouldn’t be soothed by wandering through cool marble halls with vaulted ceilings, gazing around at strange shapes from centuries past? But the precise scientific results of the study should be sure to be revealing all the same.

“The Covid crisis, accentuating stress, burnout and other pathologies, has confirmed the relevance of such a project,” Delphine Houba, a cultural alderman in Brussels, told the newspaper L’Echo. “I am convinced of the capacity for solidarity from all Belgian museums towards vulnerable audiences to provide them with free access and support. But the decision is theirs based on the results of our pilot experience. It has been shown that art can be beneficial for health, both mental and physical.”

In North Wales, a recent research study posed the question: “Can creative engagement in museums improve the mental health and wellbeing of people experiencing mental distress?” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that “creative activity in museums has a significant beneficial impact on the mental wellbeing.”

Going to a Museum Could Help With Coronavirus Stress, Doctors in Brussels Say