“This project has given me the opportunity to develop both personal and interpersonal skills that will be very useful in my future as a practising conservator. It has allowed me to further explore my beginnings in conservation, and has helped me to better appreciate the progress I have made so far. Reflecting on the experiences that initially brought me to the field of conservation has given me a greater appreciation for the skills that I have gained in this first year of my master’s study. Although I am by no means a professional conservator, I can now recognise some of those same skills in myself that so impressed me when I had the opportunity to work with an emergency conservator on site. I can also better understand her and the discipline and focus that goes into her work, and I therefore reflect on the lessons she offered me with a deeper understanding of their value. Revisiting my time in X has only made me more sure of my choice in this career path. Having this opportunity to present my own story in this way has made me grateful that I have been able to fulfil my goal to train as a conservator.”
Digital Storytelling on the MA in Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects
The digital storytelling workshops in the department of Archaeology began as a result of a collaboration between Dr Teti Dragas (DS Lead) and Dr Emily Williams who on hearing about Teti’s interest and work in storytelling was interested in exploring this in her context. Emily leads the Masters course in the Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects, a two-year programme which trains graduate students to become conservators. The Digital Storytelling Workshops focus on supporting students throughout their learning, by offering them a space to reflect on their own professional identity and their learning on the course. Importantly, conservation professional practice is both a science and an arts-based practice. The 2-year MA focuses mainly on a year of learning the ‘science’ of conservation and as such, the students often struggle to translate this into the narrative life of objects, which is vital for their future practice in museums. The DS project here will support 3 key questions which pertain to the developing conservator:
- How transparent are our narratives and motives for preserving objects?
- How do we engage with audiences/stakeholders and share our discoveries and engage them with process of conservation?
- How do we build value?
As a cross-disciplinary field, students can sometimes lose track of what they have learned and achieved so building opportunities for reflection is useful. DS offers spaces to be reflective about what they are learning and how their identity as a conservator is developing. As such it will aim to support the following learning objectives:
- Team building and engagement with the course. The confidence to ask questions and engage with the material is an important skill but can be crucial in conservation where theory tends to be published but learning practice is often dependent on engagement with other conservators (asking questions, learning technique)
- Self-Reflection. This is an element that is important in the later modules and will be assessed summatively in the programme’s final module. DS offers an opportunity to introduce it much earlier and get students practicing it.
- Learning about sourcing images and image rights. Students need to find comparative images for many of their projects and this will help teach them tools for doing this
Digital Storytelling forms part of a formative assessment for students, which feeds into students final summative at the end of the year. In this way DS workshops form a bridge between these two points, supporting students’ continuous professional development by providing both a creative and reflective space to explore their learning and identity and how this interlinks with the stories of the objects they seek to conserve.
Read about how the digital storytelling projects evolved and what was learnt and see some of the stories from conservation students below.
Digital Storytelling MA Conservation 2021 -2022
Digital Storytelling within the MA Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects was first launched in 2021 having been postponed for a year due to the pandemic. The workshops were embedded into a second term module Conservation Practice which follows more theoretically based modules in the first term, which enables students to build the practice skills they need necessary to their professional practice. As a practical and technical module students must select three objects from a range of authentic and complex archaeological objects and over the course of the module work on them in the lab, learning both about the methods of their restoration, preservation and conservation as well as about their object histories.
As we envisaged in the project plan, digital storytelling here provided a place and space for students to explore and reflect on a number of interrelated areas:
- their particular object histories
- the specific techniques that they are learning to support the conservation of these objects
- their own growing professional identities as conservators
Dr Teti Dragas planned, delivered three key workshops followed up by a digital storytelling showcase event. The workshops enabled students to learn how to create a digitial story that encompassed any or all of the above areas. The importance was that this supported their development them in a variety of ways:
- to reflect on their learning journeys as developing conservators
- to learn about how to tell stories about objects and their histories
- to better understand how storytelling works and how it can be usefully employed in the conservation of museum objects space
The project launched in 2021 while the pandemic was still very much still present and the first iteration was done online. In 2022, we were able to bring the workshops back to the classroom.
The MA groups across both years had around 10-14 students (per year). Students came to the MA from a variety of academic backgrounds, and there was a great range of students both international and home students from over 8 different nationalities. Students all brought different skills and interests to the programme and the stories were equally varied. Each of the stories had very different concerns and foci which was really interesting to see, both for the individual as to how this developed, but also as a group.
Feedback from the group was really positive overall. The stories had supported students in ways that spoke to educational and professional aspects of their field. They also very much valued the space to reflect and to connect with others.
You can read some of the reflections and feedback in the section below.
The process of writing, planning, and producing my own digital story has been a highly educational and engaging experience.MA Conservation Student 2021