Storytelling in Museums and Heritage Sites
Storytelling enables us to learn about past events in an emotionally engaging way. It is becoming a popular approach in museums and heritage sites. It brings exhibitions to life by using personal voices and perspectives instead of the more traditional approach of presenting facts and artefacts. It also helps with community inclusion and social connection to engage with a broader audience including those with disabilities.
This workshop will showcase four case studies, including research projects in collaboration with Titanic Belfast, Prisons Memory Archive, and Ulster Museum to show how personal stories can engage with people emotionally across time and space and across different cultures.
We believe that responding to storytelling is a universal human capacity, and is an ideal way to relate the message of museums and heritage sites to people of all abilities.
This event features four talks and speakers will discuss the storytelling approach from various aspects in museums and heritage sites.
The talk will firstly be given by Dr Conor McCafferty: The Prisons Memory Archive (www.prisonsmemoryarchive.com) is an inclusive collection of 160 walk-and-talk recordings with those who had a connection with Armagh Gaol and Maze and Long Kesh during the conflict in Northern Ireland / the North of Ireland. Conor McCafferty will discuss how the project used the life-storytelling approach as a key part of its ethical framework.
Dr McCafferty was Project Manager of Visual Voices of the Prisons Memory Archive (2016-2020), a partnership project between QUB and PRONI, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Sarah McDonagh will talk through the Prisons Memory Archive project from an accessibility aspect: In societies emerging from conflict, storytelling offers a way in which to understand the past in all its complexity and multiplicity. It also serves as an important tool to engage people with the stories of the past in a way that resonates with their present. Based on empirical research conducted with the blind and non-blind audiences across Northern Ireland, this talk mediates on the power of the storytelling in engaging people with the audio descriptions of the Prisons Memory Archive (PMA) video tours of the Maze and Long Kesh prison. As an access service, audio description offers an interpretation and verbal representation of the essential visual information as it appears onscreen. Rather than present a definitive interpretation of the Maze and Long Kesh prison, combining the audio description with the personal stories of those who passed through the prison offers a way in which to represent the complexity of the prison. In this regard, the PMA participant recordings not only showcase the diversity of the prison experience, but also enrich the video tours for blind and non-blind audiences alike.
Sarah McDonagh is a AHRC-funded doctoral researcher at Queen’s University Belfast. Her research focuses on audio-describing the Prisons Memory Archive’s (PMA) video tours of the Maze and Long Kesh prison for primarily blind and partially sighted audiences across Northern Ireland.
Rui Sun will give a talk on translating the Troubles Exhibition: A Case Study in the Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland: This talk will discuss issues of representation and the ways in which museums are responding to the changing expectations of visitors and civil society by looking at the Troubles and Beyond Gallery in the Ulster Museum, and explain how to retell stories of the Troubles through translation in a way that meet the needs of international visitors.
Rui Sun is a PhD candidate in translation studies at School of Arts, English and Languages, Queen’s University Belfast. Her research interests include translation studies, narratives in museums, contested histories and memory studies. Her thesis explores the translation and representation of difficult histories in museums. She is working with the NMNI to produce the Chinese translation for the Troubles and Beyond Gallery at the Ulster Museum.
Finally, Xi Wang will give a talk on storytelling in the context of museum accessibility: Storytelling is an approach for enhancing learning, generating emotional engagement, and inspiring imagination; it is also a way to connect to one’s personal and collective experiences. Stories are powerful tools for social inclusion and enhanced visitor experience, especially in the contexts of museums and heritage sites. This talk will explore storytelling as an access approach for people with various capabilities. The multisensory smart map of Titanic’s Maiden Voyage will be showed and discussed as a case study.
Xi Wang is working at Queen’s University Belfast as a Marie-Curie Early Stage Researcher, and at the same time, is doing a PhD in translation studies at School of Arts, English and languages. Her research interest is in media accessibility and audio description for museums. She currently works with world leading tourist attraction – Titanic Belfast and RNIB to investigate novel access options that employ new technologies including touch tour design and AI-based interactive app design.