Kids in Museums Manifesto – Are You Signed Up?

Museum Explorer

Teddy Bears Picnic at Chelmsford Museum

The Kids in Museums Manifesto is not a new thing. The charity has been doing great work promoting the importance of engaging with children and family audiences for many years now. They run high-profile annual schemes such as Takeover Day and the Family Friendly Museum of the Year Award (nominations are currently open) and deliver regular training on subjects including Babies in Museum and Autism Awareness. The Manifesto is the backbone of all of these areas of work, informing their work and the work of many museums around the UK (and possibly the world…?)

 

The 20-point manifesto is made of really simple things, most of which you are probably already doing including saying hello to visitors and sharing stories. Last year they launched a “mini-manifesto”, covering all the key points:

  1. Reach out. Begin the welcome beyond your door. Help families find you, go out to meet them, start friendly conversations on their home patch and make your museum easy to reach.
  2. Get to know your families. Some have babies, some toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents or foster children. Embrace these differences, from your programme to your ticketing.
  3. Seek to reflect your community and include it at your heart in your displays, interpretation and events.
  4. Be positive. Say ‘Hello!’ Welcome enthusiastic comments (which may be loud), have things to touch and explore, challenge your staff to never say ‘No’
  5. Make it easy and Comfortable — with a family friendly café, pushchair friendly toilets, seating in the galleries, a place to store skateboards and teenage kit, child-height stair rails, tap water. Just a few of the very practical ways to help a family relax and have fun.
  6. Be accessible. Families with disabilities may make an extra effort to reach you. Include their needs in everything you do and say — from how to get there to exploring the displays. All your visitors should be equally supported and welcomed.
  7. Tell your story. Families aren’t only coming to see your collections. They’re coming to enjoy your museum and hear your stories. These are what they’ll share when they get home. Find a way to include their stories too. They’ll add new insights and make the museum belong to them.
  8. Communicate well. Let families know what you offer. Include this on your website and social media. Chat with families before they visit and after they leave. Build relationships and include them in long-term decision-making. These families will become your greatest advocates.

 

So, I was surprised to discover that only 17 Essex venues are signed up to this wonderful initiative. Kids in Museums are an Arts Council funded “National Portfolio Organisation” (NPO) so signing up will look good on your Accreditation returns. It is also worth mentioning on funding applications as part of your commitment to broadening audiences and supporting young people. You could also put it on your website and share that fact that you’ve signed up on your social media or in other publicity.

Registering your organisation’s commitment to the manifesto is really easy. Just fill in the short form on their website. You can also have a sneaky look at which other museums are signed up (and which ones aren’t).

While you’re there, why not nominate yourself for Family Friendly Museum of the Year

A Culture of Lates

This guest post has been provided by Culture24.

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Culture24 is running the first ever national conference about museum after-hours events at the National Gallery in London on June 1st. ‘A Culture of Lates: How do Museum Lates Build Audiences & Generate Income?’ is aimed at museum/gallery after-hours events programmers and venue decision-makers and will be a fabulous opportunity to learn about Lates and network with colleagues.

 

Tickets are available now from the conference sales page  but if you work or volunteer at an Accredited Essex Museum that is not an NPO please contact Amy before booking as she can help you to access funding to attend.

 

The speaker list includes:

  • Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield
  • Ashlie Hunter, Producer of Public Programs, Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, creator of Newcastle/Gateshead’s annual culture crawl The Late Shows
  • Marilyn Scott, Director, The Lightbox, Woking, whose Thursday Lates attract a new audience of local young professionals
  • Lucy Woodbridge, Head of Visitor Events at the Natural History Museum, who opens up access to the museum’s collection while generating income
  • Tatiana Getman, Head of special projects & events, the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
  • Tim Ross, Australian comedian and TV presenter who uses comedy to create original heritage interpretation events and Instagram to market them.
  • Neil Mendoza, entrepreneur and consultant who recently published the DCMS Mendoza Review, an independent review of museums in England
  • Sam Bompas, Experience Designer and Jellymonger from Bompas & Parr, who flooded the ss Great Britain with 55,000 litres of luminous jelly for Museums at Night 2012
  • The Godperson of Lates, the original Lates programmer who started it all off at the V&A in 2001
  • Abigail Daikin, Events Director at Time Out, the media outlet that supports Lates all over the world
  • Kate Rolfe, Head of Events at the National Gallery
  • Alan Miller, Chair of the Night-Time Industries Association
  • Airbnb

 

The programme will feature presentations, panel discussions, socials and practical sessions including:

Programmers’ Question Time – Is your venue’s Lates programme blighted by lack of funding? Do you have a crop of talented local artists but are unsure how to reap the best out of them? Our panel of Lates event programming experts will grapple with your event challenges and help you create your after-hours Garden of Eden!

Plus …

Sussex independent artisan spirit producers Blackdown Distillery will be sponsoring the after-conference drinks party providing a welcome drink to all guests who pop up to the National Dining Rooms from 5.30pm

 

 And if that were not all…

There will be a comedy improve show by Do Not Adjust Your Stage at the National Gallery starting at 7pm on the evening of the 1st June after the conference. The National Gallery are offering all conference delegates the opportunity to buy tickets at the discounted membership price. Delegates simply use this link https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/calendar/blank-canvas to buy tickets at the member’s price and present their ticket along with their conference lanyard on the door on the night.

You may remember that Do Not Adjust Your Stage have previously delivered training for Essex museums on audience engagement, public speaking and giving guided tours.

 

We hope you can join us for this unique occasion!

Snapping the Stiletto Update

Snapping the Stiletto

Logo designed by Essex artist, Lisa Temple-Cox

Pippa Smith is project manager for “Snapping the Stiletto”, an Essex-wide project looking at how women’s lives have changed since gaining the vote in 1918. 

Snapping the Stiletto is a project funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections fund which aims to uncover and celebrate stories of strong Essex women over the past 100 years. Working in partnership with 11 museums across (historic) Essex and a range of community groups to steer the project we will be looking for hidden stories of women in museum collections and creating exhibitions and events to share these stories across the county.

CHMPM 536 Pat Foster, 1st female motorcyclist for EP

Pat Foster, first female motorcyclist for Essex Police (copyright Essex Police Museum)

The museums will be recruiting volunteers to help them to research and tell these stories and I’m busy talking to a range of community groups to discover what sort of topics would interest them. So far I’ve had meetings with representatives from the WI and the Shree Ram Mandir  Hindu Cultural and Heritage Centre and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with the Razed Roof Theatre Company in Harlow . I’ve contacted the Guides, sisters from a local mosque and representatives from a wide range of groups representing the diverse communities across Essex.

History students at Essex University studying a ‘Votes for Women’ module  have been looking at the representation of women in museums and public spaces and tackling some interesting questions set by the project which we hope to blog about soon.

So far two main themes are emerging- groups are interested in the history of women at work, in particular in industry and women as campaigners beyond the suffragettes.

Guest Blog: My First Time At the MA Conference

Today’s post is written by Iona Farrell, Volunteer at Beecroft Art Gallery and Museum in Southend.

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My First Time Delegate Badge

I have volunteered for Southend Museums and in particular Beecroft Art Gallery as an Exhibitions and Archive Assistant for a number of years. Volunteering has fuelled a desire to gain full-time employment in the sector and I therefore jumped at the chance to attend the Museums Association Conference. I knew I would gain fantastic insights into the museum world and learn new skills to put back into my volunteering and my future career.

Essex Museum Development provided me with a bursary to attend the whole three days of the conference and I could never have imagined how jam-packed the conference would be!  It was an inspiring mix of interactive sessions, workshops and fantastic keynote speeches rounded off by visits to cutting-edge museums within a beautiful city.

As a first time delegate (I even have a badge to prove it!) what most struck me was how welcoming everyone was. The first time delegates breakfast on Thursday morning provided an opportunity to mingle with fellow first timers (helped along by delicious bacon butties) and throughout the whole three days whoever I spoke to was always so encouraging in giving me advice.

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The auditorium within the Conference Arena

I had to deliberate long and hard over my conference booklet to decide how I could attend as many sessions as possible ! There was a real mix of content from workshops on how to write CVs and crack into the industry to practical guidance in staging accessible exhibitions and writing interpretative text.

What really surprised me was the variety of speakers. The hilarious Poet and Playwright Lehm Sissay and the equally side-splitting comedian Francesca Martinez opened and closed the first day of the conference with messages of empowerment and acceptance. Whilst Alejandra Naftal, director of ESMA museum, a former detention and torture centre in Buenos Aires opened Fridays proceedings with a hard hitting talk. Equally engaging were the broadcasters Lucy Worsley (who I must admit I was slightly starstuck at!) as well as presenter and historian David Olusoga who spoke about the potential for museums and television to collaborate. Something I am really excited about is the BBC Civilisations series airing in 2018. The BBC wishes museums to stage a series of events that co-ordinate with the programme and are providing free access to BBC archives for museums to tap into. This is something I think would be brilliant across Essex Museums!

Museums change Lives

The resounding message I took from the conference was the potential that museums have to truly change lives, one of the Museum Associations own manifestos. 2017 has been a turbulent year, with Brexit, increasing social isolation as well as the alarming rise of world leaders such as Trump. In her opening speech, Sharon Heal the director of the Museum Association Heal stated museums can respond to this by allowing people to explore their own histories and shape their futures for the better.  It is about being inclusive and reaching out to those who are on the margins.

History of Place- Reanimating Collections of Disability History

Linked to this idea was a session I attended run by the History of Place, a programme that uncovers the lives of the disabled and deaf within heritage sites. It was really useful in showing how museums can create accessible exhibitions, open to those who may not be reflected within traditional museum collections. Creative approaches such as replacing object focussed displays with multi-sensory exhibits using touch, taste and even smell to communicate to visitors really stuck with me. I am excited at how these exhibitions seem to be gaining momentum and look forward hopefully to seeing more examples of this within Essex.

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Museum Detox’s Pop-Up Stand

Museum Detox

Of course inclusivity is not just about expanding audiences but about workforces, one of the main themes of the conference. Museum Detox a collective of BAME museum workers (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups) had a pop up stand where ‘patients’ could take a White Privilege test, and were administered pills (Tic Tacs I might add!) and a prescription to challenge societal injustices within museums. Having studied the idea of the inclusive museum on my Masters course it was great to see these ideas put into practice and discussed so passionately.

It was fantastic to see how museums can tackle these issues creatively and I think that becoming more inclusive is so important within museums but it has to have real meaning and not just be a tokenistic activity.

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Samira Ahmed, Matthew d’Ancora and Ian Blatchford debate on the fake news phenomenon

Fake News and Museums

Another stand out for me was ‘Beliefs Trump Facts’ a debate that looked at how museums can respond to the disturbing trend of ‘fake news.’

Science Museum director Ian Blatchford and Matthew d’Ancora, a Guardian journalist argued it was about striking the balance between rational facts and personal stories. I will definitely take this aspect away, that with great storytelling you can connect with visitors and with this you have the potential to communicate important messages that can lead to a real positive impact in the wider community.

Yet journalist Samira Ahmed astutely countered their stance when she asked what are the parameters of free speech in museums, where should the boundaries be placed, should we state all the facts and reflect every viewpoint however controversial they may be? It seems there is no easy answer but museum workers should use their support networks, such as the Museums Association or within Essex Museums and seek advice from within the wider museum world.

Exploring Manchester Museums

After such an intense but rewarding few days on Saturday I journeyed to The Whitworth, as museums across Manchester opened their doors to delegates. Uthra Rajgopal, Assistant Curator of Textiles and Wallpaper showed us the exhibitions that are being staged as part of the #NewNorthSouth programme across the North of England that is supporting the work of South Asian artists.

In the afternoon I explored Manchester Art Gallery and was particularly moved by the video installations of artist Hetain Patel, whose work brings marginalised subjects into the mainstream. One piece (Don’t look at the Finger) was a mesmerising mix of sign language and kung-fu (yes really!) and I took away how powerful multi-media installations are within a museum setting. This work was also part of the #NewNorthSouth programme. I thought this was a brilliant idea in connecting venues together with a shared message. Southend Museums have a number of venues across the borough and it would be amazing if future programming could bring together all these sites with a shared theme.

Time to go home

I had such a fantastic few days in Manchester and left filled with ideas I can’t wait to put into practice. The conference has shown me what modern museums can achieve in an era of change and uncertainty. Through the support Essex Museums have given me by funding my conference, as well as speaking to delegates I came away knowing Museums are supportive places that truly have the potential to make a worthy impact on peoples’ lives. I want to thank Essex Museums Development for giving me the opportunity to attend.

What on earth is GDPR and how does it effect you?

I attended SHARE’s fantastic Data Savvy Fundraising at Ipswich Museum on 18.10.2017, which explored the impact of GDPR legislation. They have another training day coming up on 7.12.2017 at Epping Forest District Museum, click here to find out more and book.

The Association of Independent Museums has published guidance for small museums – click here to access this. In addition to this, I wanted to share a few tips to get you started on thinking about the changes you might need to make before the new legislation comes into force on May 25 2018.

First, the lingo…

Glossary:

GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation, legislation for how we process and store data about people

PECR – Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, additional governance for electronic communications including emails, text and mobile phone calls

Data Subject – the person who the data is about

Data Controller – the individual or organisation that is in control of who processes data and why the data is processed (e.g. trustees, museum employees)

Data Processor – the individual or organisations tasked with processing the data on behalf of the Data Controller (this would exclude museum employees but includes volunteers)

Personal Data – defined as “Any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person.” This means data or combinations of data from which a person (not organisation) can be identified

Sensitive Personal Data – this is personal data, which relates to an individual’s race/ethnicity, religious beliefs, political opinions, mental/physical health, sex life, criminal history and trade union membership

ICO – Information Commissioner’s Officer, the UK’s independent data protection regulator

How will it affect you?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into place on May 25 2018 with no transition period. This legislation protects all kinds of personal and sensitive personal data and has been adopted by the UK through the Data Protection Bill so will not be effected by Brexit.

This means that all data you hold about people will have to meet this new standard or be deleted. BUT don’t panic! With a few straightforward steps you will be able to meet this new standard.

What’s it all about?

If you hold data about a person they have the right to know what data you have, access the data, rectify incorrect data, delete all data about themselves, restrict your use of their data, obtain and reuse data and refuse consent to use their data.

The key principles are that data should be:

  1. Accurate and kept up to date
  2. Kept for no longer than is necessary for the purpose it was collected
  3. Processed in a way that ensures appropriate security

The Data Controller (i.e. your museum) is responsible for ensuring that these requirements are met. In order to demonstrate that you are meeting the requirements of GDPR you must:

  1. Implement appropriate measures to ensure you comply with legislation
  2. Keep a record of how you’ve processed data
  3. If appropriate, appoint a person responsible for ensuring compliance (only appropriate for larger organisation)

There are different legal conditions that allow organisations to hold and process personal data but the main two that apply to museums are consent and legitimate interest.

Consent

Consent means that the person has explicitly agreed to you holding their data and using it for specific purposes. Consent has to be used to emails, text messages, mobile phone calls, house phone calls if the person is listed on the Telephone Preference Service and for processing sensitive personal data (see glossary).

Consent must be:

  1. freely given (you can’t offer incentives or force someone)
  2. specific to how you plan to use their data
  3. informed
  4. unambiguous
  5. clear, affirmative action (i.e. you can’t use ‘opt out’ options)
  6. demonstrable (you must be able to prove that the person gave their consent if asked)

Consent doesn’t necessarily last for forever and should be refreshed at appropriate intervals. The GDPR doesn’t give an exact time frame, but every 24 months is recommended. Consent expires when the purpose for which you collected the data ends. For example if you hold someone’s details because they’re a volunteer, when they stop volunteering you must delete the data, unless you request permission to keep the data for another reason.

Example consent form:Example consent

(From ‘A practical guide to lawful fundraising for arts and cultural organisations’, June 2017, by BWB and ACE. Click here to access the full document.)

Data you have previously collected must meet this new standard. If it does not, you can ask for consent or you must delete this data. There is no such thing as implied consent.

Legitimate Interest

Please note that any local authority or university museums cannot use Legitimate Interest as a reason for holding personal data. This is explicitly banned in the GDPR.

Organisations that are not managed by a local authority or university can use Legitimate Interest to justify handling data without consent when the data processing is ‘necessary’ for the legitimate interest of the data controller (i.e. the museum). Your organisation has a necessary legitimate interest when using the data achieves an organisational objective (this is vague and will probably be tested in court).

Before you use Legitimate Interest you must ask yourself:

  1. Why this activity is important?
  2. Is processing the data is the only way of achieving your ‘necessary’ objective?
  3. If processing the data isn’t the only way to achieve the objective, why do you believe that handling the data is the most appropriate approach?

Whether or not you can use Legitimate Interest depends on the ‘reasonable expectation’ of the individual when they gave you the data. You must consider:

  1. What is the direct impact on the individual?
  2. Are the consequences for the individual positive?
  3. Is there a link between the original purpose that the data was given and how you want to use the data?
  4. What kind of data is being processed?
  5. Could your use of the data be considered obtrusive?

For example, if someone agreed to give you their address when they donated an object they might expect that you would contact them to ask a question about the object but they might not expect you to post them leaflets about all your museum events.

People can opt out of allowing you to use their data for legitimate interest.

You cannot use Legitimate Interest to contact people via email, text message or mobile phone call as this is governed by the PECR legislation. You can use Legitimate Interest to contact people by post or home phone call (provided their number isn’t listed on the Telephone Preference Service).

Privacy Policies

If you haven’t told someone how you’re going to use their data, you probably can’t use it. Your privacy policy sets out how you will use their data. A privacy policy should include:

  1. Who you are (identity and contact details of Data Controller)
  2. Why you want their data
  3. The legal basis for processing the data
  4. Who the data will be shared with
  5. How long the data will be held
  6. The person’s rights
  7. The right to withdraw consent
  8. The right to complain to the ICO
  9. The source of the data (if it’s not being provided by the person)
  10. Any automised data handling (for example wealth screening for fundraising purposes)

This is a lot of information for a person to take in! You might give this information at the point of consent being given, and it could be a link from your consent form (if you’re doing it online). This would look something like this:

privacy statement

(From ‘A practical guide to lawful fundraising for arts and cultural organisations’, June 2017, by BWB and ACE. Click here to access the full document.)

You can see examples of good and bad privacy policies if you click here.

What do you need to do?

  1. Don’t ignore it!
  2. Don’t work alone – make sure your whole team is on board
  3. Do audit your use of data
  4. Do write or review your privacy policy
  5. Do keep a record of your decisions

Need more information?

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-reform/overview-of-the-gdpr/

https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/privacy-notices-transparency-and-control/privacy-notices-in-practice/

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/A%20Practical%20Guide%20to%20Lawful%20Fundraising.pdf – practical examples of consent and privacy policies

https://2040infolawblog.com/

Learning & Engagement Grants For Essex Museums

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Essex Museum Development is offering grants of up to £500 to support the delivery of learning and community engagement using collections.

The grants aim to support local museums to:

  1. Develop relationships with local education providers including schools, colleges and home education groups
  2. Develop new learning and engagement resources
  3. Develop an adult learning offer
  4. Deliver activities which will reach new audiences
  5. Make their venue more accessible for disabled audiences

The funding scheme is open to any Accredited museum (or museum registered as Working Towards Accreditation) within the Essex or Southend-on-Sea local authority boundaries. Please note that to apply you must have attended at least two of the following training days:

It is important to read the guidance document before applying. It contains some suggestions as to what the grant can be used for, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in contact if you wish to discuss your ideas.

To apply, complete this application form and return it to amy.cotterill@essex.gov.uk by 5pm on Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Learning and Engagement application guidance 2018

Click here to download the application form

 

Rising Tide: Navigating the Future of Cultural Learning

Royal Opera House Bridge Annual Conference 2017

Chatham Historic Dockyard, 29.06.2017

I’m lucky enough in this role to attend training pretty often and I often see inspirational people discuss the importance of the work of the heritage sector and hear incredible case studies. I won’t write about all of them, but I did want to share what I learnt at Rising tide: Navigating the Future of Cultural Learning, the annual conference of Royal Opera House Bridge. This conference interrogated the role of cultural education, from dance to museums and opera to archives.

We’re all busy people, so I’ll try and keep this blog short and I haven’t included all the sessions. If you’d like to chat about anything below, just get in touch. The Royal Opera House Bridge will be publishing resources from the day, so check out their website for more details.

Why Tomorrow’s Children Need a 21st Century Enlightenment (Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)

Matthew kicked off the conference by taking us back to the 1700s and the Age of Enlightenment. He described the three key ideas that shaped the Enlightenment:

  1. Autonomy – we are the authors of our own future and not in a chain of control that was preordained and we must simply accept our fate in life.
  2. Universalism – all humans deserve dignity.
  3. Humanism – purpose of all human endeavour is to liberate and enrich human life.

These ideas have become narrowed over time. Autonomy doesn’t just mean a free market, universalism isn’t just a metric of social justice and humanism isn’t controlled through the economy. We must revisit these values to bring them up to date:

  1. True autonomy requires self-awareness and self-discipline… not through shopping.
  2. Universalism is about empathy and engaging with those whose beliefs and ideas are different to ours.
  3. We need to identify what a good life is to understand humanism. What are we working towards?

Engagement in the creation and enjoyment of culture helps us understand these ideas.

So what is the role of cultural education? Cultural education makes three assertions:

  1. Citizens have a right to access their own, their countries’ and the world’s culture.
  2. Cultural education supports young people to develop positive ways of shaping society (and we need a robust way of measuring this impact that will appeal to budget holders).
  3. Cultural education has a role in preparing us for our future.

We are starting to move into a late material culture, with more people stating that self-expression is more important than what they own. People are coming of age in a sluggish economy and don’t expect to own more and better things than their parents. It should be our ambition to ensure that everyone has ‘good’ work with scope for development and a sense of purpose. If we shift into this new kind of economy, cultural education will be more important than ever.

To Lift All Ships (Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation)

Sir Kevan challenged the conference with a series of provocations, but made the assertion that when people want to challenge the world, they turn to culture.

  1. Are we creating a boring and irrelevant education for children?
  2. Should we be concerned that creative subjects are becoming sidelined into extra-curricular activities for the middle-classes? For many people the educational system seems broken and there isn’t time to focus on anything but ‘core subjects’. Is this true, or is this argument to trick us into giving schools to other people to run?
  3. Is the word ‘culture’ being appropriated by people who see education as either skills for knowledge. Through setting culture as ‘knowledge’ are they able to decide what counts as culture?
  4. How can a child spend 13 years in education and fail? Huge numbers of children are failing to get a level 2 (e.g. GCSE) qualification.
  5. As the education offered to children narrows, how do we demonstrate the contribution that culture makes?

Most job growth in Britain and the world doesn’t require just one subject but needs people with broader life skills, for example relationship development, empathy and creative problem solving. A strong cultural education builds these kind of skills and supports the core subjects.

We must implement a scientific approach to measure the impact of cultural education, disseminate what we’ve learnt from projects and mobilise good projects nationally.

Empathy Lab (Miranda McKearney, social entrepreneur and co-founder of Empathy Lab and Sarah Mears, Library Manager for Essex and co-founder of Empathy Lab)

Miranda and Sarah argued that in an increasingly diverse world children must be able to thrive in diverse environments. Empathy and social skills are being squeezed out of education and these are vital to children’s attainment at school and preparation for their futures.

Research has shown that children must see and experience empathy to develop these skills. Socio-emotional skills cannot be a bolt-on but can be embedded in a child’s wider education. The Empathy Lab is trialling developing empathy skills through reading, which is at the core of educational programming in schools.

Empathy can be divided into psychological and physiological:

  1. Psychological Empathy:
    1. Cognitive – understanding that someone is upset
    2. Affective – feeling upset when someone is sad
    3. Empathetic concern – wanting to help someone in need
  2. Physiological Empathy:
    1. Endocrine system
    2. Mirror-neurons

If you’re interested in reading more about the scientific side of Empathy, check out the Empathy Lab’s website for resources.

Academics are starting to understand the relationship between reading and developing empathy. Just as the brain responds to words for smells, touches, etc as if you were smelling and touching something, your brain responds to stories as if was the real world. This means that the way we feel empathy for characters in stories, wires our brain to feel the same sensitivity for real people. This means that children can learn empathy from reading.

The Empathy Lab is trialling different approaches in schools, asking children to read books, look at how the characters felt and naming those feelings and then asking them to build this into actions. For example a group of children read a story about refugees, explored how it would feel to be a child refugee and then wrote letters to child refugees and politician. The children involved moved forward with literacy, family involvement and classroom relationships.

The Empathy Lab are looking to extend this work to museums, so watch this space.