In the past decade, museums have been changing their missions, definitions, and exhibitions to focus on activism and the interpretation of the controversial and polarizing. Through exhibiting controversy and engaging visitors with it, museums have attempted to foster feelings of empathy. This paper summarizes the results of the research done on community-based projects from the 2020 exhibition Hostile Terrain 94 and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Hostile Terrain 94 is an international pop-up exhibit concerning the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border. RIT will be exhibiting a piece of this map which will come together at the National Mall in the fall of 2020. I interviewed two museum professionals, one from Hostile Terrain 94 and the other from the USHMM, to gain insight on empathy-making in museums and the role of museums in the community. I also researched the USHMM’s past and present community-based projects to base the structure of a new program for the Hostile Terrain 94 exhibition at RIT. This research will contribute to an ongoing discussion in the field on ways to use community-based programming to open discussion over contemporary human rights issues. It will also suggest ways in which museums and exhibitions can engage their communities using programming to foster empathy.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Tamar Carroll

Advisor/Committee Member

Robert Ulin

Advisor/Committee Member

Tina Lent


RIT – Main Campus