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Capability: A Meditation on Gun Culture and Gun Violence in the United States

Project by Maggie DeFranco (2019)

The purpose of this hybrid thesis project was to create an exhibition entitled Capability about gun culture and gun violence that fostered empathy within the viewer for victims and survivors of gun violence in partnership with the Kirkland Arts Center in Kirkland, WA. This project was created using a five-step curatorial process outlining the development, preparation, research, design, and production of the exhibition. Research regarding best practices for fostering empathy in museum patrons for curators was conducted with a phenomenological study utilizing semi-structured interviews. This project resulted in the successful installation of Capability from March 23rd 2019 until April 27th, 2019, and a gallery binder. Research results identified four trends for curators interested in working with empathy as part of their curatorial practice: art has the power to influence empathy regardless of how it was curated, strong educational and public programming was essential to leverage empathetic response in patrons, creation of best practices was evolving and studies regarding their effectiveness were not yet available and not all curators agreed that exhibition development was a sector of museology that  should be concerned with garnering empathetic response from visitors.

Keywords: Class of 2019, guns, gun violence, healing, project, exhibit


DeFranco, M. (2019). Capability: A Meditation on Gun Culture and Gun Violence in the United States. Unpublished master’s project, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.