Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2013)
Visitor-centered. Civic-minded. Diverse.
Inclusive. Welcoming. Responsive. Participatory.
The qualities of 21st century museums are impossible without an inner core of institutional empathy: the intention of the museum to be, and be perceived as, deeply connected with its community.
Assuming an empathetic institutional stance has little to do with sentimentality or inappropriate emotionalism. Instead, just as empathetic individuals must have a clear sense of their own identities in order to perceive and respond effectively to the experience of others, the empathetic museum must have a clear vision of its role as a public institution within its community. From this vision flow process and policy decisions about every aspect of the museum- audience, staffing, collections, exhibitions and programming, social media, emergency responses - all the ways in which a museum engages with its community(ies).
Institutional empathy must live at the core of our museum practice –exhibition and new media design; inclusive and diverse exhibition design and programming in terms of race, ethnicity, accessibility, and sexual orientation; immediate and effective responses to crises in the local community.
Professional Development Workshops:
The Empathetic Museum Maturity Model is an effective tool for concrete and actionable growth based on the collective research of our team of museum colleagues. Learn more about our workshops and contact us to schedule a conversation.
NEWS You Can Use!
Confronting our Whiteness: Our First Steps Toward Systemic Change
By: Stacey Mann, Saralyn Rosenfield, Amelia Wiggins
Now on Medium.com
NOW IN SPANISH
Our Maturity Model rubric and Instructions are now available in Spanish! Thanks to our newest Empathetic Museum member Nayeli Zepeda, Art Historian and specialist in museum education, and Editor, Daniela Ekdesman. To request copies, please contact us using our webform or via email.