With chapters written by a diverse set of practitioners from across the museum field and around the world, Storytelling in Museums explores the efficacy and ethics of storytelling in museums.
The book shows how museums use personal, local, and specific stories to make visitors feel welcome while inspiring them to engage with new ideas and unfamiliar situations. At the same time, the book explores the responsibilities of museum practitioners toward the storytellers included in their narratives and how those responsibilities shift over time and manifest in different contexts.
The book’s eighteen chapters represent a conversation among a diverse set of professionals for whom storytelling connotes their daily museum practice. As educators, collectors, curators, designers, marketers, researchers, planners, and collaborators, the authors of this book consider the “real work” of storytelling from every angle. From the inclusion of personal stories in educational programs to the meta-narratives on display in exhibitions, this book balances practical examples with ethical considerations, placing the praxis of storytelling within the larger context of the 21st century museum. The book moves beyond advocacy for storytelling as an essential part of the museum’s toolkit to explore the many ways in which museums use personal stories, and multiple storytelling techniques, to support the larger public narratives embedded in their missions.
The contributors demonstrate how museums that emphasize storytelling from multiple angles can serve as a kind of counterpoint to our tendency to fixate on singular images of things we know little about. They encourage museums to both acknowledge that they cannot control the narrative and to embrace their power to contribute to it through the multivalent, multivocal stories they choose to share.
For more than fifteen years, Adina Langer has focused her museum career on interpreting traumatic historical events for diverse audiences while emphasizing the dignity and individuality of the people who experienced them. An active curator, oral historian, educator, presenter, editor, blogger, and published author, she has created or co-curated more than eighteen exhibits with permanent homes at three museums, presence on the Web, and a busy schedule traveling the library, school, and community center circuit. Follow her on Twitter @Artiflection and find her on the web at www.artiflection.com.
by Adina Langer
Part One: Storytelling Methods
by Benjamin Filene
by Corey Timpson
by Amy Weinstein
by Anna E. Tucker
by Marcy Breffle and Mary Margaret Fernandez
by Miriam Bader
by Deitrah Taylor
by Rebecca Melsheimer and Jose Santamaria
by Lois Carlisle
Part Two: Storytelling in the Community
by Samir El Azhar
by Judy Goldberg and Meredith Schweitzer
by Margaret Middleton
by Sarah Litvin
by Donna Mah
by Elysia Poon
by Michelle Grohe
by Iris Carter Ford, Patrice Preston-Grimes, and Christian J. Cotz
About the Editor and the Contributors
Storytelling can be a key to deep engagement. This broad-ranging collection provides valuable insights on the ways museums and visitors tell stories together--in exhibits and programs and operations, inside and outside museums, online, and across borders. Practitioners offer case studies of projects that have expanded definitions of both storytelling and visitor-centered museum practice.
To simply approach Storytelling in Museums as a collection of isolated case studies is to do it a disservice. Through a variety of perspectives this volume brings forth critical perspectives on the essential questions of modern public history practice i.e. whose stories are we sharing, how is the power to share those narratives wielded (and by whom), and what impact do these stories have on museum practice at every step of creation.
Taken individually each article provides a single narrative on storytelling within the bounds of the museum walls, but collectively we are provided a glimpse into the challenges and promise of inclusive storytelling and the ethical considerations that should be a part of every level of public history practice in the years to come.
Storytelling in Museums brings together dynamic storytellers who balance the depth, breadth, and complexity of what it means to intentionally invite storytelling into the heart of a museum’s purpose. Through the expert blending of theory, practical application, and lived experiences, the contributors have amplified the importance and feasibility of shaping stories within the context of contemporary museum spaces. As the editor, Adina Langer has made room for a diversity of voices, perspectives, and techniques so that readers can find aspects of their own stories threaded throughout each chapter.