XOXO: The Healing Power of Love and Forgiveness

After the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the museum needed a way to quickly respond to the horrific circumstances in front of us. By reimagining XOXO, we built a system that can “pop up” anywhere in a couple of hours and be a resource to help people in the aftermath of a tragedy, or in less acute situations where emotional connections need to be tapped. When we started, we did not expect the pop-up project to be an all-encompassing solution for overwhelming and complex situations, but we were confident in the effectiveness of the core XOXO activities as tools to help people express feelings on their own terms.

One of our big takeaways from this proj-ect is realizing that people need to practice their empathy skills, especially as we move deeper into adulthood. As we grow up, there are fewer opportunities to get that practice in a typical day. Like physical activity, some people exercise on their own, while others join a gym to be held accountable and get the support they need. Experiences like XOXO are like going to the “empathy” gym. The museum sets up the equipment and, in some cases, offers trainers, but the visitors still need to do the work themselves to see results.

The XOXO pop-up worked in the moment because we already had the framework from the original XOXO traveling exhibit. Once we implemented it, the first-person experiences from the pop-ups in the community added new layers to the overarching XOXO concept. The response we received showed us the need for experiences about kindness and empathy, going beyond our original intent for the original traveling ex-hibit and the pop-up. It is this newfound understanding that will have a lasting im-pact on our work at the museum and how we frame museum experiences in the future.

To read the the full story: Hand to Hand: The Responsive Children’s Museum