Cultural heritage must be made “closer”, resonate with people’s lives. We believe this is a necessary condition not only to protect it and transmit it to future generations, but to keep breathing new life into it.
Before describing our working methodology in more detail, it is necessary to make some preliminary remarks.
The first one concerns the emphasis we place on storytelling as an everyday – rather than performative – action. Narration is naturally connected with the need and desire to communicate/share feelings, thoughts, insights and aspirations, and taps into expressive and emotional skills, rather than oratory techniques.
It has always been a fundamental component in human relations, throughout the ages and at all latitudes.
In other words, the language of storytelling is universal.
This is why we think it is so important to use it in museums, libraries and archives, in “memory sites” or while immersed in a cultural landscape… Because it speaks to everyone, and – unlike the traditional language of a guided tour – has the potential to trigger those resonances with personal lives and experiences which can spring from the encounter with a work of art, an object or any other form of heritage, if only we give ourselves the time to look at it (and connect with it) deeply.
Storytelling builds a bridge between History and stories.
Another important remark on how we work concerns the relationship between expertise and autobiography. When a museum (or any other heritage institution) is eager to encourage new voices and narratives, rather than entrenching itself in a self-referential attitude, this does not imply it is willing to relinquish expert knowledge: on the contrary, the evocative power of our storytelling projects rests on a close collaboration with curators and specialists, whose expertise is vital to make sure that personal stories draw their strength from an intense “conversation” with the chosen artwork, object, or site. In fact, the historical/scientific accuracy of the narrative trails we develop with our partner institutions is not intended as a means to retain content control, but as the only way to genuinely trigger a resonance between the storyteller and a given heritage – a resonance which cannot be attained by merely using the latter as a “pretext”, or as a “Rorschach inkblot”.
The innovative character of our work lies in the close intersection between the two dimensions (History and stories), which do not only “coexist”, running like parallel lines never colliding, but interweave, nurture and enrich each other.
IN A NUTSHELL, HERE ARE THE KEY FEATURES OF OUR WORK:
Allowing time for storytellers to:
- Expand their skills of observation and description: spending a long time “with” the chosen artwork / object / site
- Expand their ability to listen: the group as a “sounding board”
- Recognise the urgency of the story they want to tell
- Identify the heart of that story, and carefully choose the images and words to convey it
- Experience a genuine opportunity for self-representation
Interweaving History and stories so as to:
- Allow personal narration and historical/scientific content to enrich each other, and become one
- Translate expert knowledge in a way that is not only accessible, but also evocative and meaningful to everyone
Working in group:
- Listening to (and learning from) one another
- Respecting the opinions of others
- Acknowledging that each storyteller has an important contribution to make to the group’s experience and insights
- Being able to change one’s own perspective
Promoting wider, more diverse and inclusive “heritage communities”
Triggering new conversations around heritage is a powerful vehicle to create new interpretive communities, taking shape not so much around “identity” fault lines, as through collaborative meaning-making and a shared sense of ownership and belonging
FROM THE STORYTELLERS’ PERSPECTIVE
Biljana Dizdarevic on the project “Brera: another story”
Li Chenxi on the workshop “Our time through the Seven Heavenly Palaces”