Katie Henry, the Coordinator of Education Initiatives & Resources, at the New Jersey Vietnam Era Museum and Education Center, provided a long list of activities and programs that the museum has for audiences with PTSD.
- “we have over 50 Vietnam veteran tour guides who speak about their experiences as a form of therapy for their PTSD. Many of the veterans often state that they were unable to talk about their experience for over 40 years and they now see the opportunity to talk to students as a way to promote their legacy. These tour guides led over 10,000 students a year in addition to other tours for multigenerational audiences.”
- “There have been lectures that focused on PTSD in the past…However, PTSD is usually discussed in most of our lectures seen many of our lectures are led by Vietnam veterans even if it is not the main focus.”
- “Our permanent exhibit also has a small section on PTSD and… we have resources about PTSD on our website. We also have PTSD support groups here every month. They use our space and often schedule their meetings when we have a lecture/event so they can attend.”
- “We also have a Resource Library that has an extensive collection of books on the topic of PTSD that are available to our visitors.”
- “We actually have a three day workshop that will take place next week that helps with PTSD. It is called the Combat Paper Project. It is a traveling exhibit and workshop program that was started by Iraqi veterans in which veterans take their uniform or another personal artifact and make it into pulp to form paper. This creates a new artistic medium and is meant to help participants reconcile their military experience”
- “We are also interested in hosting this workshop to promote younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to come to our museum. I am eager to promote our museum as a community center which is something that has been becoming more and more an important mission to museums”
For more information about these programs and the museum, check out their website.
From 2004 to 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts launched a program called Operation Homecoming. The program asked members of the military and their families to submit essays about their experiences in the military. It was an open call for any story and experience. The NEA received 1,200 submissions from around the world.
The program did not specifically target people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; however, it did encourage this audience to work through their experiences through writing. The NEA set up writing workshops on military bases around the world to help servicemen express themselves through writing. In 2006, the NEA published Operation Homecoming: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Home Front in the Words of U.S. Troops and Their Families. The anthology is comprised of 100 submissions. You can read some of the submissions here.
The program is not currently active, but, according to Public Affairs Specialist Sally Gifford at the National Endowment for the Arts, you can learn more about the program or submit your essay “for placement in the federal archive” on the Operation Homecoming website.
In an effort to engage a wider audience, the National Endowment for the Arts has teamed up with Blue Star Families and over 900 museums nationwide to offer free admission for members of the military and their families.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2010, card carrying Blue Star members can enter any museum for free. Families shared their experiences on the Blue Star Museums blog. Families have written about their experiences at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park and a plethora of others.
Sally Gifford, a public affairs specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts, said the program was meant to “thank the families and members of the military military with a fun and enjoyable cultural activity.” While not specifically targeting military members with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the program brought together military families who are often separate from loved ones for months at a time. It also created time for families to bond when a family member was deployed. Gifford said the program aims to create a “fun, positive experience while a family member is away or back home.”
The feedback for the program was very positive. Gifford said “everyone said it was a very worthwhile program.” While no official announcements have been made yet about next year’s plans, stay tuned for announcements on the NEA Bleu Star blog.
“A recent study from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the number of Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder is rising rapidly…” – Minnesota Public Radio.
Over the past few years, cases of PTSD have been increasing and museums around North America are responding. At the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Canada, a painting by Colin Gill called Canadian Observation Post has been used to help treat PTSD among Canadian soldiers.
Alison Howell wrote in her paper “The Art of Governing Trauma: Treating PTSD in the Canadian Military as a Foreign Policy Practice” that the painting has gained a lot of attention recently in Canada as a way to tell the story of PTSD.
“In the production of this narrative of PTSD amongst Canadian soldiers, one piece of art has become particularly prominent. After spending 80 years in storage, Colin Gill’s 1920 painting titled Canadian Observation Post, which depicts a soldier suffering from shell shock in WWI, has recently come to be displayed in museums across Canada, and has been featured in various special reports, opinion pieces, and other publications produced by the military’s Ombudsman. It is now displayed prominently in the new Canadian War Museum. This paper questions why this painting from WWI has suddenly been featured so regularly, how it has become useful, and how it functions within emergent narratives concerning PTSD in the Canadian Forces.”