Neurominded: Neurodegenerative Disease & Museums

Last week in class we were given the opportunity to meet with medical students from the Bassett Healthcare Network who are doing part of their residency here in Cooperstown.  During our get together we screened the film Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. This documentary explores the lives of people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases and how the power of music therapy can help them ease their pain.

This film stuck me as very powerful for a number of reasons, the primary being the fact that a large number of people in my family have had some of the neurodegenerative diseases that this documentary explored. I cannot help but think how their lives could have been changed if they had been given the opportunity to explore music therapy during their lifetime. I wonder if this really could have helped ease their suffering.

Another thing that I couldn’t help but think about was how museums can reach out to patients and caregivers of people with neurodegenerative conditions. Take the Rubin Museum in New York City for example. They offer free tours specifically for patients with Alzheimer’s or Dementia and their caregivers. They offer guided tours and try to facilitate discussion and encourage engagement with the art and each other. It’s especially interesting to explore what the Rubin Museum is doing as the Rubin Foundation sponsored the film Alive Inside.

Rubin Museum
The Rubin Museum in Chelsea Manhattan

The Rubin is not the first museum to do this. There are a few institutions that offer or have offered tours for visitors with Dementia or Alzheimer’s including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the American Folk Art Museum, the Jewish Museum,  the Frye Art Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

It’ll be interesting to see how museums explore this concept further and allow for greater accessibility for those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.

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