With nearly seven years of formal, post-secondary education in archaeology, I have definitely learned a lot of dates, a lot of names, and a lot of theories. But I can honestly say that, despite my ongoing love for historical facts and figures, the single most important thing that archaeology and history can teach is empathy. It is the very reason why I started this blog – to showcase this too-often overlooked side of historical studies. By revealing the stories of people, their triumphs and their failures; investigating the mundane objects so special to individuals; and exploring the parallels of past lives with our own, archaeology continues to provide me with new insights into how others lived, regardless of when or where they lived. Through historical investigation, we can “walk a mile” in someone’s shoes, and better understand and respect their perspective. By studying the past, we can break down barriers and learn about each other – celebrate our unique differences, but also understand how we’re actually not so different in many ways. I’d say that if there was ever a time to be fully embracing this aspect of history, it’s now…
“Empathy is our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings and thoughts of another. It allows us to connect with others who seem different, making us more aware of our commonalities.”
It seems that Elif Gokcigdem, author of “Five Ways Museums Can Increase Empathy in the World,” agrees. This article appeared last month on the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center website, and builds on Gokcigdem’s ongoing work on empathy and museums, more of which can be found on her blog.
“Museums that encourage us to understand, emotionally engage with, and contemplate this profound truth help us to become more responsive to the needs of those around us and of our environment.”
I’ll let Gokcigdem’s article do the rest of the talking. Then once you’re done, get up inspired, and go visit a museum! Because the world needs all the love and empathy it can get, and a museum is a great place to start.
Cover Photo: Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada (www.rom.on.ca).