CAIRO – 20 September 2022: Psychiatrists at one of the largest Brussels hospitals have started offering patients "museum prescriptions" which includes a free visit with a few friends or family members to discover one or more of the cultural institutions in Brussels.
Delphine Houba, the deputy mayor of Brussels in charge of culture, believes that the project is the first of its kind in Europe, and she told the Observer that the first goal is to enhance access to culture after the pressures of the closing days, adding, “I want everyone to go back to our cultural institutions - but we know that even before COVID-19, it wasn't easy for some people to enter the museums. They don't feel comfortable and I really want to show that cultural venues work for everyone."
The second goal, she said, is to give doctors a "new tool in the healing process," which has been used in a similar project in Canada, where doctors have been issuing prescriptions to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts since 2018.
In Brussels, the pilot project lasts for six months, and includes five museums directly under the control of the city authorities, including the Museum of City History, a Center for Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Fashion and Lace.
Patients can also discover the Museum of Sanitation, which allows them to wander 10 meters underground along the banks of the La Senne; Brussels' hidden river, which was largely paved in the 19th century; or they can explore the collection of clothes belonging to Manneken Pis, a group of Belgian humorists.
"Anything can have therapeutic value if it helps people feel good and connect with themselves," said Johan Newell, a psychiatrist at Brugmann University Hospital, who is participating in the pilot program.