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Turning Personal History into Community History
In researching the role of narrative in the museum, I found that historically, museum narratives consisted of information being handed down from scholars and experts to be received by the public. Today we recognize that convincing narratives make use of diverse viewpoints, and communities construct meaning collectively. I conducted an audit of narrative occurrences within the North Carolina Museum of History, mainly focusing on exhibit content. The resulting compilation revealed that most narrative content was conveyed in an institutional voice and did not often incorporate multiple perspectives. Additionally, there were few avenues for visitors to contribute to the community process of forming meaning. Observations at the museum revealed that large numbers of visitors related to museum content by telling stories of their own experiences and memories. As visitors were already naturally sharing their own narratives, I wanted to design a tool to capture and preserve those stories, and allow them to be shared with the larger community. The resulting prototype allows the visitor to curate the exhibit’s content in order to create a new story, while adding a new voice to the museum and community narrative.