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Storytelling and Museums


Begiebing illustrates the point when she says good labels raise questions and get people thinking. The voice telling the story makes a great difference. First-person encourages the reader, audience, or visitor to the museum to listen and relate to a person, the speaker, not just to the recitation of facts.

An example of a first-person story is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is also a third person perspective in which the main character is seen from the outside and the inside at the same time, heightening the readers involvement in the story. Mixes of viewpoints and voices assist in telling extremely complex stories. Franco says it this way. Audience research has shown that visitors are more willing to deal with difficult topics in exhibitions if they are given multiple viewpoints and are able to hear different sides. Addressing the unfamiliar is one way to foster critical engagement, says Joshua Brown, filmmaker and historian.

A good storyteller gives the listener or reader a sense of making order out of chaos. So the good storyteller must give the reader a good dose of feeling the chaos, and there has to follow enough order made out of the chaos to give the reader the satisfaction of a good story. However, the stories that appeal to generation after generation are the stories that are never resolvable - just as life is never resolvable; the complexity of life remains.

Life is non-linear, says filmmaker David Grubin. If life were linear, we would always live in the present moment, but we don’t. At any moment, we live in the past, partly in the present, and much in the future. Life is non-linear. And the best films convey that non-linearity of life in flashbacks and premonitions. Grubin tells his own experience of trying to capture on film what it was like to be Sigmund Freud. And Grubin's solution was to tell the childhood of Freud toward the end of the film when Freud is rehashing for himself the difficulties he had in creating psychoanalysis. And in that moment of complexity in his life, Freud reflects on the similar difficulties he had in his childhood in getting people to accept him. In Grubin’s estimation, Kurosawa similarly looked for non-linear storytelling techniques when he approached the problem of telling in Rashomon the very complex story of conflicting interests. Four different people are involved in a murder. They have different self-interests, and they have different stories of what happened. It is all one film, but it is four different stories with similar people and similar props in each of the four stories.

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