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Digital Storytelling in the Department of Archaeology


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:

  1. How transparent are our narratives and motives for preserving objects?
  2. How do we engage with audiences/stakeholders and share our discoveries and engage them with process of conservation?
  3. 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:

  1. their particular object histories
  2. the specific techniques that they are learning to support the conservation of these objects
  3. 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.

Watch Shoun Obana’s story ‘The First Conservator’

Feedback on Digital Storytelling: MA Conservation

The following provides some of the feedback gleaned from the reflections the students wrote about digital storytelling and how this had supported their professional and academic development as well as their future skills into employability. There are also some final reflections and feedback from Dr Emily Williams (MA Director) on how she about what DS brought to the MA programme.

The process of writing, planning, and producing my own digital story has been a highly educational and engaging experience.

MA Conservation Student 2021