Skip to main content

‘The First Conservator’ by Shoun Obana

Nearing the end of my first year of postgraduate study at Durham, and amidst a global pandemic, I had the opportunity to take part in the Digital Storytelling course taught and facilitated by Teti Dragas. As a visual and practical learner, I felt drawn to the course and hoped it might be something I would enjoy. The series of workshops turned out to be a refreshing change from the conventional academia that had largely comprised the first year of my master’s program and it provided an opportunity for me to develop my storytelling skills on a digital platform. I believe that the skills I learned on the course will benefit me both personally and professionally.

This digital story was created as part of a Digital Storytelling Workshop run as part of the MA Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects in 2021.

The course was a blend of digital and storytelling elements. The digital components involved compiling digital images, sounds, music and the use of video editing software. The storytelling aspects to the course, gave the participants an opportunity to develop their storytelling skills, revisit object biographies as a method of presenting an object history and looked at telling stories from a variety of perspectives. I found these experiences to be extremely beneficial. Sharing our digital stories with one another gave us the chance to learn a little more about each other on a personal level and encouraged us to build on the already existing professional relationships we had formed up to that point. It was nice to see a different side to the rest of my cohort.

My digital story, entitled ‘The First Conservator’, explains how a personal sewing project guided by my mother inadvertently included me in the long-running Irish familial tradition of passing textile skills down through the generations. The story touches on elements of object biography, cultural identity, cultural heritage, and personal history. Through telling the story, I had the opportunity to shine light on my mother’s role within our family as a craftswoman, restorer, and conservator.

The Digital Storytelling course has inspired me to further develop my digital skills and continue practicing the use of video editing software. Telling a story in this format has countless uses as a conservator, museum professional or artist and I hope to do this more often in the future. The course was also useful in the practice of some essential soft skills that I believe will be extremely useful in the workplace. These skills include discussing ideas openly, creative thinking, communication and problem solving. In summary, I believe I gained a lot from the digital storytelling course. It was both an enjoyable and enriching experience and I hope to carry what I have learned forward into my career as a conservator.