Five Ways Museums Can Increase Empathy in the World

Please note my latest article on empathy-building in museums, which was just published at the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center website:


Mark your calendars for a book launch!

Join us in a discussion with the editor and contributors of Fostering Empathy Through Museums at the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum on October 21, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Free. No reservations required. Presenters will include:

Elif Gokcigdem, Editor, Fostering Empathy Through Museums

Miriam Bader, Director of Education, Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Emlyn Koster, Director, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Amy Landau, Director of Curatorial Affairs, and Curator of Islamic and South and Southeast Asian Art, The Walters Art Museum

Jordan Potash, Assistant Professor, Art Therapy Program at the George Washington University

Tommy Wide, Assistant Director for Special Projects, Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art, Smithsonian Institution




“The Human Element” as Disruptive Innovation –A Presentation at the ASTC Conference

The recent ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) conference in Tampa hosted several contributing authors to “Fostering Empathy Through Museums” at a panel titled: “‘The Human Element’ as Disruptive Innovation: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Museums’ Roles in Socio-emotional Development.”  The slide deck for the panel presentations can be found here:


Deborah Cockerham, Managing Director, Research and Learning Center, Forth Worth Museum of Science and History

Orna Cohen, Partner and CCO, Dialogue Social Enterprise GmbH

Elif Gokcigdem, Ph.D., Editor, Fostering Empathy Through Museums

Erik Jahner, Ph.D. candidate, Educational Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Southern California

Troy Livingston, Non-profit Leader, Executive Consultant

*featured image source:





“Fostering Empathy Through Museums” now available for pre-ordering…

Fostering Empathy Through Museums

I am happy to announce that Fostering Empathy Through Museums a volume that includes fifteen thought-provoking case studies contributed by experienced museum professionals from a variety of museums (from animal sanctuaries to art museums), is now available for pre-ordering:*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of the Earth Day, I would like to share an excerpt from my introduction to “Fostering Empathy Through Museums” (forthcoming by Rowman & Littlefied, August 2016) – Illustration by: Fatih Mehmet Durmus, 2016:

“Sixteen years into the millennium, this is not a particularly proud moment for humanity. Having visibly altered our planet’s outermost layers, scientists are debating whether our footprint is worthy of naming an entire geological epoch on Earth’s billions of years old timescale after ourselves: Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. Poverty, injustice, famine, radicalism, war, and a lack of human rights thrive in countries around the world.

A steady proliferation of new and ever more powerful technological tools seems unable to correct these ills. One must wonder why they have not succeeded. I believe it is because the tools that are at our disposal are most beneficial when filtered through a worldview that values the collective wellbeing of the “Whole” –our unified humanity and the planet, inclusive of all living beings as well as its life-supporting natural resources.

Such a unifying worldview cannot be attained and sustained without empathy: our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings of another. Empathy enables us to connect with ourselves, and with others while awakening us to our connectedness as parts of a greater Whole. An awareness of our connectedness calibrates and harmonizes our values, attitudes, and behavior. Awe of, and appreciation for, this interdependent Whole inspires us to meaningfully engage with it through acts of compassion and altruism that, recent scientific findings reveal, are like “chocolate” to us. Not only are we wired to connect, but also to find ways to serve towards the greater good. This phenomenon is a self-sustaining cycle: powered by empathy, leading to compassion, altruism, and a rewarding sense of fulfillment of our humanity.”