Researchers at University College London in the U.K. are studying whether hospital patients can benefit from handling beautiful or intriguing museum objects.
Helen Chatterjee, the deputy director of UCL Museums and Collections who is leading the unique two-and-a-half year project, says that there is already a fair bit of research that shows that art programmes in hospitals have significant positive physiological and psychological impacts on patients.
According to her, this is the first time this kind of therapy is being tested with museum objects.
The study would involve objects from across UCL's museums, which is everything across the arts, humanities and sciences: archaeological artefacts like Egyptian figurines, a nautiloid shell, a panther skull, etchings, minerals and rocks.
During the study, all the objects will be laid out at the patients' bedside, and they would be invited to select whichever object they want.
Thereafter, the patients will be questioned as to what do they think the object is, why did they choose it, what does it feel like, does it remind them of anything? etc.
The session can last anywhere from ten minutes to more than an hour.
At the end of the session, the researchers will be collected the quality-of-life measures again.
The researchers associated with the project say that they have got quantitative and qualitative data that people participating in a preliminary trial genuinely enjoyed the sessions and felt better.
The team have already tested about 100 patients.
"I can absolutely say that pretty well all the patients showed a statistical increase in their general health status and their overall well-being - the quantitative scales. And as for the qualitative feedback, more than 90 per cent was positive. We do think there could be potential for psychological therapy, but the research is all preliminary," Nature magazine quoted Helen as saying.
If further research on the 'object therapy' show promising results, Helen said: "We hope we'll have sufficient data to show there really is a valuable role that museums can play (in health care), and to then provide a tool kit for saying what is the best practice for engagement between museums and hospitals."