Heritage Storytelling

Heritage Storytelling

Paola Falcone
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3636-0.ch010
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There is a growing interest towards storytelling in communication management. Stories work. How can stories and storytelling support heritage communication? The first part of the chapter aims at describing the fundamental role storytelling can play for heritage sites, identifying its benefits. It analyses its being a process of co-creation, made by storytellers and story holders. The second part of the chapter identifies and describes the most relevant aspects to consider for an effective storytelling: from finding good stories to being able to tell them through different channels, creating transmedia narrations.
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Heritage, in both its tangible and intangible aspects, plays an essential social, cultural, identifying, and educative role in social contexts. Heritage places, like little mosaic tiles, tell and remind history, cultures, and identities. They have a social and symbolic meaning (Byrne, 2008), and are strongly connected with time. This connection is multi-faceted, and includes both physical and conceptual aspects. Time causes multiple effects on things, and heritage is not immune to this. Heritage is fragile, and often can be worn out by time. When forgotten and deserted, it becomes vulnerable in its tangible aspects, exposed to both natural factors and possible damaging human actions. Protecting heritage requires care and financial sustain, and when it’s diffused on the territory, and financial resources are not enough, allocation is not easy.

Any heritage, can out of time increase or decrease its value, which is intrinsically connected to time and generations. Heritage is appreciated over the years, and myths are generated by time. Time is the test bench of the intrinsic value of things. Are they made to last, or will they be forgotten? In some cases time is needed to understand the value of a work; Van Gogh’s human and artistic story is paradigmatic of this.

As said, pieces of heritage tell stories, cultures, and identities: this supports tourists to enter and understand the places they are visiting; at the same time, it helps communities in memory making, and in feeling somehow socially more connected (Mutibwa, 2016). It’s easy to lose sight of this aspect, and often residents pass in front of historical places, considering them simply as part of the usual daily urban landscape. Day by day tour guides repeat the same story, with dates and names designated to be fast forgotten by groups of distracted students who hardly find something attracting their interest. Caravans of distracted and quite unaware tourists can quickly move from one site to another, consuming places and stories (Franklin, 2003) as collecting points or deleting items on a to-do-list, in order to say ‘ok, done, visited’. Both residents and tourists in most cases hurry up, both distracted and rarely aware. Some research on American visitors revealed that “most are only vaguely aware of what’s on display at the museums they visit” (Falk, 2016, p. 24). Clearly not all audiences are the same, and some are able to tune in with places and stories. This requires time, some basic knowledge, and motivation to listen.

Are we in front of dusty old places, or of live places? What can managers do for these places, to keep them still alive, and stimulate audience interest and desire to learn more?

When preserved, passed down, and enjoyed, heritage places identity lives, and remains alive over time without diluting, nor getting lost. As Carandini explains:

“Cultural heritage is not made of golden ingots, addressing the problem of security, due to property and inheritance. Natural, historical, and arts heritage doesn't decrease by fruition. On the contrary, it increases its value, as distinguished, acknowledged, and beloved things grow in the comments generated by their fortune” (Carandini, 2017, in Panza, 2017, p.53; author’s translation from Italian).

So, enjoining heritage becomes also a mechanism for its safeguarding. This requires a persistent effort to develop audience attention and interest in heritage. Does storytelling fit for this purpose? The chapter aims at showing why and how storytelling can be an essential tool to read, interpret, enjoy, remember, and tell about natural and cultural heritage. Its scope is cultural domain A. in the Unesco classification comprising Museums, Archaeological and Historical Places (including archaeological sites and buildings), Cultural Landscapes, and Natural Heritage” (Unesco Institute for Statistics, 2009, p.25).


Storytelling: Nature And Relevance For Heritage

Storytelling is about narrating stories, and stories are something people are familiar with since they are children. As Weick (1995) clarifies, people share information, ideas, and identities through stories because it’s easier - and so more frequent - to think as in narrative terms, rather than through argumentations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Storytelling: Telling (and sharing) stories.

Script: A text describing facts and dialogues of the story.

Storyteller: The person (company or institution) telling a story.

Plot Twist: One or more events complicating the initial situation, and requiring some action by main characters.

Story: Narration of a set of true or fictional events.

Transmedia Narrative: A narration across several media. Each piece of narrative through a given channel adds some new elements to the story.

Storyholder: A person or a group listening to a story.

Narration Characters: Real or fictional characters in a story.

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