Truly, what a story really boils down to is a temporary (in fact, sometimes fleeting) relationship between two individuals: the listener and the teller. I say teller, because it’s not even always a speaker. It’s not even always audible. Heck, it’s not even always a person. Sometimes the teller is visuals, graphics, photos. Sometimes the teller is a series of labels or explanatory text. Sometimes the teller is the space, itself, using layout, lighting, ambient music to tell a story. And of course, sometimes the teller is a person speaking to another person or to a group of people.
Museums allow for a broad - the very broadest - platform for telling stories because a museum can weave together visual, auditory, person-to-person, and environmental storytelling all into one experience.
The theme of “Storytelling” is nothing new in museums. What I hoped to do, however, was bring non-museum perspectives to the table. I wanted to investigate. . .
- How do other storytellers harness stories?
- What does the “business of storytelling” look like, if there is such a thing?
- What universal themes exist across disciplines - including museums - that use stories?
The result was a fun, dynamic trio of panelists whose individual worlds and stories were as fascinating and gripping as the work they do in sharing stories.
I really couldn’t have asked for a more fun “job” as the moderator. In order to prepare to moderate, I read as many articles and blog posts I could find about storytelling in museums; I read all the panelists’ work, front-to-back; and I made notes whenever I saw a possible synapse (connective point) for the panel conversation. I had lots of conversations with other museum professionals, and, of course, some incredibly inspiring conversations with the panelists.
Was it more than a little scary to stand up on that podium in front of my peers (and many professionals I look up to and admire)? Yes, of course. But, it was also a significant growth opportunity for me that I would have been crazy to turn down.