Especially following the advent of the web, museums have frequently used digital media to share stories about objects in their collections and to collect stories (about objects, history, etc.) from the public. Seeing the potential of these media to do more than aggregate and distribute, some museums are experimenting with digital media to create storytelling experiences for users and visitors.
Culture Shock! (2007 – 2009 (?) ) – Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums; Beamish – The Living Museum of the North; The Bowes Museum; Hartlepool Museums & Heritage Service; Culture:Unlimited
Inspired by the UK organization Culture:Unlimited’s 2005 manifesto, “Culture Shock,” this project, led by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, supported the production of 550 “digital stories” (in the model of the Center for Digital Storytelling). The manifesto urged museums and galleries to foster “cultural identity, cohesion and citizenship” by collecting new stories and objects that could further cross-cultural understanding (Culture Shock 2009). The project was understood as an extension of the oral history work long undertaken by the North East Regional Museums Hub and fellow institutions.
Over two years, the project hosted multiple digital storytelling workshops throughout Northeast England. Stories were all “inspired in some way by museums and galleries or are inspired by heritage and things that are important to people” (Culture Shock 2009). The project aimed to both make museum collections more relevant to the residents of Northeast England and to preserve their experiences. Completed stories were accessioned into museum collections and are available to view online. An evaluation is available as a PDF.
Mindcraft: A Century of Madness, Murder and Mental Healing (2014) – Wellcome Collection
An “interactive story” in the mode of those being created in the journalism and film worlds, “Mindcraft” offers “an alternative history of mind control from mesmerism in Paris to hypnotism on Freud’s couch” (Wellcome 2014). The story unfolds in six chapters, creating a narrative experience by immersing users in a full-screen interface that offers both sequential navigation (through scrolling) and interactive opportunities to explore embedded items from the Wellcome Collection’s digital archives.
“Mindcraft” is the first digital story produced by the Wellcome Collection, which aimed at making its digital archives accessible in a newly engaging way. Read more about the project in the press release. The institution’s second digital story, “The Collectors,” was released in early 2015 and explores the early history of collecting, and thus of museums, in England.
The Storyteller (2014) – Melbourne Museum, Museum Victoria
This mobile app (available for iPhone and Android) is available to drive and enhance the visitor experience of the WWI: Love & Sorrow exhibition (August 30, 2014 – 2016) at the Melbourne Museum. Like many exhibitions that wish to make the complexity of historical events less overwhelming and more accessible, Love & Sorrow tells the “story of the war … through the personal experiences of eight characters and their families” (Hart & Brownbill 2015). The guide, produced by Museum Victoria in partnership with Art Processors, asks users to select one of the eight “characters”–real-life individuals whose lives were changed by the First World War–to follow through the exhibition, thus creating a narrative path. The app takes advantage of Bluetooth low energy beacons to make content related to the selected character’s story available based on the user’s location and behavior.
The specifics of the app are available in a conference paper Museum Victoria staff wrote for Museums and the Web 2015.
WWI: Love & Sorrow (2014) – Melbourne Museum, Museum Victoria
Like The Guardian’s interactive news stories, this companion site to the physical exhibition WWI: Love & Sorrow uses parallax scrolling (enabled by storytelling platform Shorthand.com) to create an immersive and narrative experience of its content.