Empathy-Building For Peace


“Fostering Empathy Through Museums” within the context of peace-building: It was an honor to be invited to take part in “Building a National Architecture for Peace in America” workshop hosted by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.


Designing for Empathy & Caring Mindsets –a participatory presentation at the AAM Annual Meeting, 2018

On May 7, 2018, I had the privilege of chairing and presenting at a participatory empathy-building session at the American Alliance of Museums Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Approximately 200 museum professionals filled the entire conference room very early on a Monday morning for an engaging, informative, and a game-changing experience which enabled all participants to “experience” how empathy-building through museums might “feel” like.

I am grateful to my co-presenters and facilitators for sharing two evidence-based empathy-building exercises: Thomas Rockwell, Director of Exhibits and Media Studio, Exploratorium, and Dr. Zorana Ivcevic and Eliana Grossman from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

My introduction for this panel was titled: “Designing for Empathy & Caring Mindsets“, which can be viewed here. I will add the other two sets of slides when available.

“NEA Newsletter” Reviews the “Fostering Empathy Through Museums”

Fostering Empathy Through Museums“The book, which would be applicable for museum curators or archivists working in a museum setting, is composed of fifteen essays describing how a variety of institutions promote empathy in their exhibitions and programming. . . . Many chapters are in the show-and-tell, ‘this is how we did it,’ mode–from interactive science exhibits to art therapists encouraging artistic creativity and discussion in highly structured programs–while others are more philosophical and explore the psychology of empathy, elucidating the differences between perspective taking, empathy, and sympathy. I found something useful in nearly every chapter.”
— NEA Newsletter (April 2017)

“Museum Management and Curatorship” Reviews the “Fostering Empathy Through Museums”

Fostering Empathy Through Museums
Book Review – “Fostering Empathy Through Museums”
Review by Gary Campbell and Laurajane Smith in “Museum Management and Curatorship” (May 15, 2017):
“This collection, which draws on so many engaging and innovative projects, will be an inspiration for anyone interested in how emotions, particularly empathy, work.”

Empathy-building at the AAM 2018



Illustration by Fatih M. Durmus, 2016

An interactive demonstration on empathy-building through museums will take place at the upcoming American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday, May 7 at 8:45 AM10 AM MST:

EMPATHY-BUILDING THROUGH MUSEUMS – AN INTERACTIVE DEMONSTRATION: There is an increasing awareness that the complex problems facing our humanity and the planet cannot be solved only through resources, knowledge and technologies. Simple human behavior and our individual choices lie at the heart of any sustainable solutions. Empathy, our inherent ability to feel like another, is emerging as an essential skill that can be nurtured towards positive behavior change for the benefit of the greater good. Museums are uniquely equipped to intentionally serve as platforms that foster empathy through experiential learning, play, dialogue, authentic experiences of awe and wonder, and contemplation. This workshop intends to showcase what empathy-building might look like in a museum setting through demonstrations facilitated by cross-disciplinary pioneers in the field.

(Chair/Presenter) Elif Gokcigdem, Author, “Fostering Empathy Through Museums”
Orna Cohen, Dialogue Social Enterprise
Thomas Rockwell, Exploratorium
Zorana Ivcevic, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence