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Approaching “Dark Heritage” Through Essential Questions: An Interactive Digital Storytelling Museum Experience


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The potential of digital storytelling in cultural heritage has been widely recognized as an effective technique for communicating heritage interpretation to the public. In this paper, we explore its application in a "dark heritage" setting—a cultural heritage site associated with death, atrocity and human depravity. Although literature within the field of dark heritage emphasizes a fascination with death as the main (if not sole) motive for visiting, according to some studies and the visitor study we performed in the context of our work, motives are in fact varied, and include a desire to learn and understand the history presented and an interest in having an emotional heritage experience. Borrowing from education, we use the notion of "essential questions" as a tool to lead to a deeper understanding of human nature. Following a user-centered design methodology, we develop an interactive digital storytelling experience for the Criminology Museum of the University of Athens. The resulting experience is adapted so as to be tested on-site and through the web. We conclude the work with our insight on guidelines for sites with similar characteristics as well as addressing open issues and challenges for the application of digital storytelling in dark-heritage contexts.

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Approaching “Dark Heritage” Through Essential Questions: An Interactive Digital Storytelling Museum Experience

  1. 1. Approaching “DarkHeritage” Through EssentialQuestions: An Interactive Digital Storytelling Museum Experience Akrivi Katifori1,2,KlaoudiaMarsellaRestrepoLopez1,DimitraPetousi1,Manos Karvounis1,2,Vassilis Kourtis1,2,Maria Roussou1,YannisIoannidis1,2 1National Kapodistrian University of Athens 2ATHENA ResearchCenter,Greece MW19
  2. 2. Who weare Narralive 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 2
  3. 3. What we do 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 3 Explore concepts aroundDigital Experiences for Cultural Heritage InteractiveDigitalStorytelling CollaborativeExperiences FacilitatedDialogue VirtualVisitingasa SchoolActivity
  4. 4. Storyboard → Easy to use → Templatebased → Allows for branchingnarratives 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 4
  5. 5. Applications 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 5
  6. 6. Dark Heritage* 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 6 * alsoknown as“difficultheritage”or“dissonantheritage” “culturalheritagethatisassociated withrealandcommodified sites of atrocity,death, disaster, humandepravity, tragedy,humansuffering, andsites ofbarbarism and genocide” (Kuznik,2018)imagefromWikipedia
  7. 7. “Milkingthemacabre”* 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 7 * Dann, G. (1994).“Tourismthenostalgiaindustryof the future.” “withincontemporarysociety,people regularlyconsume deathandsufferingintouristic form, seeminglyintheguiseofeducation and/orentertainment” - Stone,P.(2005).“DarkTourismConsumption–Acallforresearch.” Later research suggest that visitors’ motives vary and include:  a desire tolearn and understand thehistory presented  havingan emotional heritage experience - Biran,A., Poria, Y. & Oren, G. (2011).“SoughtExperiencesatDarkHeritageSites.” - Rami KhalilI., Erdinç Ç . (2013).“Understandingvisitor’smotivationatsitesofdeathanddisaster:thecaseofformertransitcamp Westerbork,the Netherlands.”
  9. 9. Athens University Criminology Museum 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 9
  10. 10. The founder's vision • Intrigued by the criminal’s mind • Seeking a deeper understanding of the human nature • Founded the criminology museum asa placefor research and knowledge transfer 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 10 Ioannis Georgiades founder ofthe museum
  11. 11. 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 11
  12. 12. User Study • “Open Day” event* • Observation of the guided tours given by experts • 137 visitors briefly interviewed 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 12 *happeningonce ayear photo:KlaoudiaMarsellaRestrepoLopez
  13. 13. User Study • Most ofthe visitors (86%) fully met their expectations • Comfortable with the scientific terminology • All stayedmore to browse through the gallery freely • Fewfelt discomfort with some of the exhibits 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 13 31.39% 8.76% 0.73% 8.03% 24.82% 0.00% 5.00% 10.00% 15.00% 20.00% 25.00% 30.00% 35.00% What visitors didn’t like Smallspace Littletime Notenoughinfo Lackoftech Other Other explained: • lack of curatorial work • closed to the public • lack of accessibility measures
  14. 14. Whybuild a digital experience? By building a digital experiencewe… • make the museummore open to the public • apply a new museological approach that will foster meaningful interactions with the museum 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 14 Main reason: • Uni Staff can’tcope with the demand for museumvisits
  15. 15. Essential questions • Relatable • Open-ended • Intellectually engaging • Requiring high-order thinking 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 15
  16. 16. Essential questions -Whatmotivescouldleadapersontotakeuparms? -Whatreasonswouldleadsomeonetotaketheirownlife? -Shouldthestatehavethepowertoenforcethedeathpenalty? 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 16
  17. 17. Experience design • Overarching theme: application of scientific methodology into criminal investigatory practice Two complementary experiences • “Following themysterious evidence” • 15-minute interactive digital storytelling experience • “Theexhibitstelltheirstories” • 20-90 minute free-form exploration experience 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 17
  18. 18. ”Followingthe mysterious evidence” 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 18
  19. 19. ”Theexhibitstelltheirstories” 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 19 • Therole of illegal substancesand the “misfits” of Athens in the early 20th century • Counterfeitand fraud • Guns and organised crime • Death penalty and the use of guillotine in Greece • [much more …]
  20. 20. On-going evaluation • 14 visitors tried the experience, so far • Positive feedback in general, but surely no conclusive results • Most prominent problems • Difficult to navigate and locate the exhibits • Immediate focus on the app feels restrictive 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 20
  21. 21. Outcomes Essentialquestions… • inform the experience concept and scenario • help with the selection of interpretation material • promote visitor engagement through reflection anddialogue 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019 - Boston 21
  22. 22. Future Work • Test possible solutions on navigation issues • e.g.boards + QR/NFC • Test the experience with groups of visitors and promote dialogue through the essential questions • Incorporate evaluation tools into the digital experience 2-6 April2019 MuseWeb2019- Boston 22
  23. 23. MW19 Thanksto the Criminology Museum staff and collaborating experts: • Dr. Maria Stefanidou-Loutsidou • Dr. Constantinos Moraitis • Dr. Zoe Sakki • Dr. Sotiris Athanasellis Partly funded by: