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.
New Honor Roll honoree: The Oakland Museum
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)