During the holidays we are often reading stories of Santa Claus, Rudolf, Tiny Tim to family member’s young (and old) to get into the “spirit of the season”. Those stories come in many forms of media, including broadcasting information online, but they all have one thing in common; a theme or take home message. Isn’t that the core of interpretation? So I contend we should make our digital storytelling content the same way. A recent article I read on Museum Hack’s website (they are awesome) comments on digital storytelling for museums. While it is from 2005 (link below), the article still resonates today and during this time of year when stories are a central focus. Out of the top 4 things they mention, I pulled a couple items out which really spoke to me.
The first was the content being thematic. As individuals who have read “Meaningful Interpretation” and taken CIG courses, we know the importance of themes in our interpretive programs. The central focus is needed to help guide ourselves and audience to a common goal. Second, collaboration between people both at your institution and abroad. While staff can be experts in certain fields, people in the community may have a bit of integral information that helps to shape, or change, your narrative. Using them to help you create content builds a relationship between yourself and the larger world. Finally, you are able to “recycle” objects you have already used either in exhibits or online previously. By adding additional information or using a new perspective, a new dialogue can be started on an object that has been on display for years.
For interpreters, we can learn a little bit about adopting digital storytelling. One of the best ways to reach people with content is digitally via social media. Visitor centers, museums, parks have a limited capacity for engaging audiences. Online, you are only limited by access to WiFi signal. You can take small stories about an aspect of your site and broadcast them to the world. Our museum does this a lot. Since it is under construction, we have to rely on programs and online media to educate people about our region. Facebook has been our biggest broadcaster. Since our page became more interpretive and active in our posts 3 years ago, we had thousands of people learn about the prehistoric creatures of the Black Belt, life in colonial Alabama and even more that could not have been shared with people due to our exhibit hall not being done. People have become more engaged in our how museum is growing, building capacity and doing community outreach than ever before. All because we moved to sharing our story interpretively online.
I encourage everyone to share our stories in a more interpretive way. You never know who you may reach.