Museum Engagement with Veterans, and Representations of War and PTSD
Romero, Don L.
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While museums, in particular history and military museums, have long included representations of war and soldiers, there is one area that is not as visible: that of the veteran who returns home from war physically intact, but psychologically scarred, perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There has been little research into how museums are addressing this aspect of war and if they are actively engaging with this component of the veteran community. With the large numbers of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, this has become a more significant and timely subject. The purpose behind this qualitative exploratory research study is to explore the ways in which museums are engaging with veterans, and to what degree, while also looking at the ways in which the sensitive topic of PTSD in veterans is being represented. The methods include a site visit and interviews with staff at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago as well as collecting descriptive data about museums that are conducting these types of programs. The findings suggest that while some museums are engaging with this audience and addressing the issues in question, it is on a fairly small scale. Some museums are collaborating with Veterans Administration hospitals in art therapy programs while others are exhibiting works that depict PTSD. For example, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York has worked with the VA to host an exhibit of photographs taken by veterans. From this research, it is anticipated that museums may show a greater interest in this particular audience and expand their programming as deemed appropriate.
- Museology