Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums of Social Conscience

Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums
Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums
Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums
Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums
Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums
Applied Storytelling, Well-being and Spirituality in Museums

Aims and Objectives: The volume of research on autoethnography as a practical research method amongst academics has increased in the past few years. There is little research on the use of this research method in an applied form by cultural/heritage activists. Whilst much heritage research focuses on the impact of exhibits on visitors there is little research on the impact on participants’ well-being (including impact on spirituality/connections to self, others and the environment) specifically in post-conflict heritage sites. This research study aims to address that gap in autoethnographic research in post-conflict situations specifically in respect of the autoethnographic product Applied Storytelling and to understand if and how it impacts the storytellers’ well-being including spirituality.

The following objectives set within a qualitative critical approach will be met in order to achieve the above aims:
- Choose and make contact with two relevant post-conflict museums who are members of the Coalition of Sites of Conscience in the southern and northern hemispheres and of whom the researcher has previous contextual knowledge and is able to speak the main language/s.
- Record (via an autoethnographic approach - face-to-face individual interviews, participant observation and a research diary) and critically analyse (via inductive and deductive thematic analysis) autoethnographic Applied Storytelling products delivered by ex-residents at a post-conflict museum in the southern hemisphere of District Six Museum and in the northern hemisphere the survivors of Bloody Sunday at the Museum of Free Derry. The deductive aspect of the approach includes analysing the data according to the NEF’s published set of evidence-based actions for well-being known as Five Ways to Wellbeing and theories of well-being, spirituality and storytelling.
- Interview management at the museums in order to understand if and what agency and support the storytellers have in training, choice of material, presentation and any other factors that might impact power relations and the storytellers’ well-being.
- Compare critically the thematic results from the two sites’ making use of the framework method and write up in the form of a PhD thesis.
- Return the recorded and transcribed interviews to relevant individuals and for the museums’ archives.
- Disseminate the findings of the research via conference papers, academic and public journals, books and reports.
Funding Sources: National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences South Africa
Timescale and delivery dates: 2015-2017
- Proposal, initial contact and clearance of participating sites and ethical clearance by University of KwaZulu-Natal: May 2015
- Background and Literature Review: Jan 2015
- Data Collection: June 2015 – July 2016
- Theoretical and Methodological Chapters: September 2016
- Data analysis: Jan 2016 – October 2016
- Write up and completion – December 2016/January 2017
Context: (see previous discussions on post-conflict and specific community)
The complexities of remembering a traumatic past whilst looking to the future have been emphasised in both South Africa and Northern Ireland. District Six and Free Derry Museums strive to readdress historic skewed top-down narratives and media by utilising a community focused approach and storytelling.
Location and setting:
- District Six Museum and District Six area, Cape Town, South Africa
- Museum of Free Derry and Bogside area, Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Description of the arts activity

Artistic approach and medium: Autoethnographic individual oral storytelling to small groups of tourists and large school classes both within the museums and on excursions into the relevant areas. Autoethnographic individual storytelling through books and videos/film. Autoethnographic communal visual storytelling on cloth – embroidery and mixed media.

Participant engagement: The research is not based on an outside intervention but on present practises initiated by the museum or by guides affiliated to the museum. Ex residents of District Six Museum who were forcibly removed from their land and survivors of Bloody Sunday (family members) convey personal traumatic events through traditional oral storytelling, books and visual media towards social change. All the storytellers started as volunteers but are now either permanently employed by the museums or work there part-time or work for affiliated tourist groups.

Details of the project participants

Target population: Permanent and part-time ex-resident storytellers and management at District Six Museum and the District Six area. Bloody Sunday family member storytellers and management at Museum of Free Derry. Bogside guides affiliated to the Museum of Free Derry.

Method of recruitment and/or referral: Purposive sampling was utilised. The sample was not only purposefully selected due to relevance to the research topic and questions but is also purposefully considered in the data analysis e.g. factors such as gender and power relations are considered. As a trained drama facilitator who makes use of Applied Storytelling in a museum setting the researcher has a prior personal interest and knowledge of the topic. The researcher approached both museums’ management firstly by email followed by telephonic and skype conversations. She had visited both areas previously and had contextual knowledge of the topics that they covered. Management introduced the researcher to each of the participants and they were given a choice as to whether they wanted to participate in the research or not.

Project management

Roles and responsibilities: There was a contact at each museum who co-ordinated and facilitated suitable dates and places for the researcher to conduct interviews and to conduct participant observation. At District Six Museum it was the head of archives and at Museum of Free Derry the museum manager. Planning and reflective sessions were held with these facilitators before and after each field trip. The research supervisor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal is the Director of the Centre for Communication, Media and Society – Prof Ruth Teer-Tomaselli.
Quality assurance: As the study is towards a PhD there is institutional supervision and ongoing evaluation. Funding was paid in tranches according to milestones met and had to be signed off in a report by the supervisor.
Data gathering included multiple methods to address the research questions and ensure internal validity or at least comprehensiveness. This was achieved as any limitations within the methods are exceeded as they are compared to each other and a consensual point of interpretation is reached. A self-reflective journal was kept in line with an action research approach in order to ensure that there was a record of methodology context i.e. the similarities and difference of methodology used at the two museum sites and reasons for these are noted in the event that they impact findings.
In line with a qualitative approach the criteria for judging the research includes credibility and transferability. Internal credibility is promoted through cause and effect that is knowledge produced relevant to the museums and ethical practises and engagement with participants particularly the two museums according to their specific predominant approaches namely action research and community participation therefore a bottom-up approach. External credibility is achieved through the examiners of the thesis. Transferability is promoted through the inherent methodology of the research that can generate knowledge or theories that are applicable to other contexts. Agreement with the relevant museums on the research topic too emphasises a value of the research both internally and externally.

Costs to participants: No cost – see Participant Engagement section
Ethics and consent: Ethical clearance was applied for successfully from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2015. The District Six Museum also has its own ethical agreement which was signed and approved by their trust before data collection in 2015. It was ensured as part of the ethical compliance that a counselling agent was available if necessary to interviewees from both sites due to the traumatic topic. Informed consent forms were provided to all participants and gone through and approved before interviews commenced. Participants were made aware that they had a chance to remain anonymous and could also retract from the interview at any point if they so wished. Contact details for the researcher and her supervisor were provided if any further information was required. Transcripts of interviews or relevant sections thereof were sent or to be sent to interviewees for their perusal and attention to detail should any changes be needed.

Evaluation methods and findings

See previous discussion on methods of meeting objectives.

Learning and/or outcomes from the project:
The project is still in progress and outcomes will be available early 2017.
Published or unpublished reports on the project:
Theoretical and methodological aspects developed by the author, specifically regarding spirituality, identity, memory, arts and heritage that inform the study have been incorporated in papers presented and published journal papers by the researcher namely:

Papers presented:
‘Stakeholder engagement and participation through the marketing of natural and cultural heritage: ARROWSA, the Palmiet Nature Reserve and Bergtheil Museum, Westville, KZN’ by Lange, M.E. and Ngema, L. at International conference on indigenous knowledge systems and environmental ethics: implications for peace-building and sustainable development, University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville, 29 April 2015, read by LN.
‘Applied Storytelling in post-conflict community museums: District Six and Free Derry’ by Lange, M.E. at Performing the Archive, NUI Galway University, 23 July 215.
‘Community autoethnography: District Six Museum and Museum of Free Derry’ by Lange, M.E. at the International Association for Media and Communication, University of Leicester on 29th July 2016, read by RTT.
Lange, M.E. & Dyll-Myklebust, L., 2015, ‘Spirituality, shifting identities and social change: Cases from the Kalahari landscape’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 71(1), Art. #2985, 11 pages.
Lange, M.E. 2016 forthcoming. ‘Marking memories: Indigenous north of the !Garib River and contemporary in Westville, South Africa’. In Researching the Indigenous. Wessels, M. (ed.), Critical Arts.

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England