How do you learn to tell stories worth experiencing?

Posted on October 12, 2012

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Today I just have a single question: how do people who work in museums learn to tell good stories?

Below is an excerpt from Seb Chan’s breathtaking interview with Mike Jones (if you haven’t yet read it yet, you should – and also check out Jasper Visser’s latest post on digital storytelling). Mike says:

A story is not just a collection of things or a sequence of events. In this I think breaking down some distinctions between Story, Plot and Narration is very useful.

The framework I like to use, borrowed form numerous scholars in the field over centuries, is that Plot is a sequence of Events, Narration is how those events are Told and Story is what the Viewer experiences through the combination of the Plot being Told in a certain way… or in other words Plot + Narration = a Story Experience in the mind of the Audience.

Once we engage with this idea we can get away from the vacuous notion that ‘everything is a story’ and actually focus on bringing to bear the mechanics and craft to generate an engaging story experience – dramatic questions, a cause and effect chain, a distinct voice in the ‘telling’ of the story, clear point-of-view, characters who are flawed and have desires and obstacles – a story that’s worth experiencing.

How do people who work in museums (curators, exhibit designers, marketers, digital content creators, everyone) learn to tell good stories? Where do they learn that art? Is it taught in school? If you took museum studies, was there a course on story development like a filmmaker or writer might take? Or is the craft handed down, curator to curator? If it isn’t taught formally, should it be?

What do you think? Where do museum story-tellers learn the mechanics and craft of story-telling to tell worthwhile and compelling stories in museums?

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