All posts by Karl Donert

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Factories of Stories

Personal stories cast a new light on the masterpieces of Uffizi Gallery

“Factories of Stories” is a project promoted by the Uffizi Galleries’ Cultural Mediation and Accessibility Unit, curated by Simona Bodo and Maria Grazia Panigada. museum-corridor photo

Director Eike Schmidt and the Cultural Mediation and Accessibility Unit deliberately chose to work with a diverse group of storytellers, including both museum staff and 8 “new citizens” (all long-time residents, or even born in Florence, with Italian citizenship status).

They sensed that “Factories of Stories” would be an important opportunity for professional development of the museums staff, and also acknowledged the potential of engaging “new citizens” in the process of collaborative meaning-making.

But above all, museum staff and the “new citizens” were engaged as persons who could breathe new light into the Uffizi artworks through their personal memories.
Individual stories all turned out to revolve around universal themes such as family, friendship, prayer and journey, casting a more evocative and personally meaningful light on otherwise “iconic” Uffizi masterpieces like the Spring by Botticelli or the Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Masaccio and Masolino.

“Factories of Stories” is accessible from three different sections of the Uffizi Galleries website, through:
• Special Visits: audio files
• HyperVisions: high-definition images of the artworks and written text of the stories
• Artworks: high definition of the artworks, short “scientific” description and audio files


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On the Origins of Museum Storytelling

Jean Capart and the social role of museums in the early 1900s

Storytelling as a tool to bring the public closer to cultural heritage has its roots as early as the beginning of the 20th century, when the Belgian Egyptologist Jean Capart transformed the Musée Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels into one of the main centres for promoting the social role that the museum institutions were beginning to play, in line with the instructions given by the Office International des Musées, of which he was one of the main exponents.Jean Capart photo

Among the most interesting initiatives carried out by Capart, in 1901 the Egyptologist set up a series of courses for young people, characterised using an informal teaching approach (for example, when he deals with the principles of Egyptian drawing, he invites his students to assume the position of the characters depicted on the reliefs).

In 1922 Capart succeeded in carrying out his most ambitious project: the creation of an educational service for museums, whose task was to organise popular conferences based on artistic and archaeological topics of general interest. Lectures were held at the museum on Sunday mornings at a reduced price, to allow the largest possible audience to participate.

In particular, the formula devised by Capart multiplied the number of young visitors: the number of school visits to the museum went from twenty in 1922 to around 600 in the period 1925-1926, reaching a thousand visits around 1945.

Copyright (c) 2019 IL CAPITALE CULTURALE. Studies on the Value of Cultural Heritage,
edited by Patrizia Dragoni, Mara Cerquetti
More information (text in Italian)

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Validating the SYNOPSIS Project training course

The Royal Museums are at the forefront of the important European project called SYNOPSIS, aimed at identifying a new professional figure, absent in the European landscape: the storyteller and cultural fundraiser.

From May 10 to 12 2022, the partners of the project, from Italy, Belgium, Greece and Spain, met in Turin, in Musei Reali, to verify and validate the contents of the course, online and free, created during the two years of work.

case study mapOn the project Web site the training course and some good practices that emerged during the work have been made available.

There are some interesting examples mapped online, like the initiative “Art is a common good”.  Support Casa degli Artisti”, has been designed in order to find the funds to prevent the closure of the only public residence for artists in Italy, the Casa degli Artisti in Milan during the pandemic period.

At the end of this campaign, the goal – to collect 20,000 euros in 45 days – has been greatly exceeded! Find out more

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Learning and Training event in Turin

In May a learning and training event took place for the Synopsis – Storytelling for Cultural Heritage Fundraising project in Turin, Italy. Besides getting to know the city and visiting the amazing exhibitions currently on display in Musei Reali Torino

The participants worked through hands-on testing of the 4 modules of the training materials developed during recent months, in order to offer high quality training content on #storytelling and fundraising knowledge and skills for the SYNOPSIS target groups.

Check out the video to have a look at our experiences there!

The participants thanked Musei Reali Torino for hosting such a wonderful event and the project partners for developing useful professional development content.


Telling stories in the Big Apple: Tenement Museum

tenement museum

We tend to consider museums as places that curate materials, objects and resources and present interpretations of them. However they are also places where experiences can be shared through storytelling as they are spaces for empathy.

Stories share personal experiences in an authentic and easily accessible form. They feel familiar, yet enable us to step into the shoes of others. They are full of detail, but leave space for us to insert our own thoughts, feelings and memories.

Stories can be used to help us make sense of the world. Through stories new perspectives can be shared that may change how we think and feel.

An example of this is a museum in the heart of the Big Apple will give you the experience of the past, in the New York of the late 1800’s, when, with the increasing arrival of immigrants, the cosmopolitan and multicultural society that characterises America today.

The Tenement Museum is built inside a building where more than 7,000 immigrants from various countries found hospitality between 1863 and 1935. Inside you can discover using the technique of storytelling the stories of some immigrant families, who left details and memories of their new life in New York.

On the website of the museum there are also many virtual paths to keep the activities going even during Covid lockdown.

Find out more about the museum

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DIAZOMA Association: protecting ancient theatres

The DIAZOMA association was founded on the initiative of the former Greek Minister of Culture Stavros Benos and brings together three “families”: the archaeological community (archaeologists, curators, conservators, etc.), Greek artists and intellectuals and local authorities (mayors, regional administrations and citizens).diazoma image

Their fundamental goal is to shape vast social networks of synergies in order to protect and promote this unique category of monuments that are the ancient theatres. To this end, Diazoma cooperates on an ongoing basis with the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs as well as with the Ministry of Culture and Sports and seeks to bring together and engage all actors of Greek society (population, mayors, prefects, universities, cultural associations) around this objective.

Raising awareness among the populations about the colossal cultural heritage and the unique potential of ancient theatres for their regions, having them participate in their preservation and revival, creating cultural routes and archaeological parks, organizing cultural events, enhancing the natural environment, adopting a charter of quality involving all the local actors (from small producers to local tourist companies), these are all steps to take towards the realisation of the ultimate vision of Diazoma : the sustainable development of regions around their cultural heritage.

As a result, theatres are at the heart of two key encounters: the one with the people and the other with tourism economy, environment and culture.

Synergies for the Promotion of the “Ancient Theatres of Epirus” Cultural Route

Fifty businesses of the “Ancient Theatres of Epirus” Business Cluster having recently obtained certification and received the Route Logo, which signifies that the goods and services provided by the logo-bearer are of the highest quality, a most interesting gastronomy and food tasting event took place in October.

The event took place during the FAM trip organised for journalists and bloggers from Greece and abroad (England, Germany, Italy, Israel) by the Region of Epirus on October 14-16 as part of its “Networking and Promoting Tourism in the Region of Epirus” and the First Combined Campaign on “Culture-Gastronomy” initiatives.

The active pursuit of synergies between members of the Route’s Cluster is one of the certification prerequisites, as synergies encourage the fostering of links between businesses that have elected to cooperate in order to improve the quality of the goods and services offered, sharing the common goal of promoting the Route as a destination.
This event is an excellent example of the “Ancient Theatres of Epirus” Cultural Route Business Cluster’s potential and momentum and creates a solid foundation for the programme’s sustainability.

Find out more about the Cultural Route


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Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible heritage consists of nonphysical intellectual aspects, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language. UNESCO maintains a list of intangible cultural heritage, which are considered by member states to be in need of protection.

DESOPAEX is an example of a project promoted by Wazo Coop that is committed to the sustainable development of Extremadura’s heritage through social cooperation and citizen collaboration in accordance with the 2030 Agenda.

DESOPAEX is the first non-profit social cooperative in Extremadura (Spain) with the primary objective of achieving the social valorisation of the intangible material heritage of the rural environment to meet the needs and reduce the inequalities of the Extremaduran population.

One of the strategic areas of action of this programme is culture, which plays an essential role in inducing dynamics of resilience and social, economic and demographic transformation, in order to develop the research, dissemination, training and promotion activities planned by the programme (thematic publications, Sustainable Heritage Gala, concerts, conferences, webinars, etc.). ..), its founders launched in March 2022 a crowdfunding campaign through their social networks, sharing their story and motivation, to raise funds that has been a success!

To learn more about DESOPAEX and its crowdfunding campaign, take a look at:

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EMOTIVE: a storytelling project for cultural heritage

emotive image gridA well-known statement by psychologist Daniel Taylor argues that “we are shaped by stories from the first moments of life, and even before“.

Yet, when it comes to cultural heritage sites or institutions, narrative tends to be used narrowly and communication often lacks emotional resonance.

The EU financed project EMOTIVE works from the premise that cultural sites are, in fact, highly emotional places. The Emotive consortium researches, designs, develops and evaluates methods and tools that can support the cultural and creative industries in creating narratives which draw on this power of ’emotive storytelling’.

Emotive storytelling is about creating a feel-good story and slotting your brand into that experience. It seeks to establish an emotional connection using something specific as the key to conveying messages properly,  connecting the brand to positive messages.

In the EMOTIVE project, the output of this process are several prototype tools and applications for heritage professionals and visitors that produce interactive, personalised, emotionally resonant digital stories for museums and cultural sites.

Find out more


Project sponsors at the Museo nazionale Scienza e tecnologia Leonardo Da Vinci

Museums perform many different roles, as they educate, inform, entertain and image They provide spaces for social interaction and reflection. And they make valuable contributions to their local communities. Museums are likely to involve active participation and they may even play active roles in enabling social change.

More than ever after the first analyses regarding the impact of Covid-19 on cultural enterprises, fundraising is outlined as a perfect strategy to obtain general benefits for all the partners involved. Museums need money to maintain their collections. Most museums are only able to display a small proportion of their artefacts, but they are required to maintain, preserve, and store other donations.

There are three main sources of funding for most museums, these are public funding, donations and endowments, and earned income

When fundraising, museums need to ensure active regular communications with donors and other supporters. These groups need to be Informed about how their contributions impact on the work being done and the value to the institution and society.

The strategy planned by the Museo nazionale Scienza e tecnologia Leonardo Da Vinci to involve donors external to the museum’s missions is called “project sponsor” where any sponsors, supporting specific initiatives, enjoy benefits such as greater visibility, multi-channel marketing, privileged use of event spaces, dialogue with the communities of reference and special personalised activities, also giving the possibility to customise the type of collaboration with the museum.

Project description (in Italian)

Museum Web site


Fundraising is not just about money

The Smithsonian’s “Digital Volunteers” program

smithsonian-imageWhen we talk about fundraising, we usually focus on the economic aspect of the issue, neglecting another important resource that people can donate to cultural organisations: their time.

A virtuous example of fundraising based on donating time rather than financial donations is the Smithsonian Institution’s “Digital Volunteers” program. In addition to the thousands of volunteers who already supported the organisation on-site, the program made it possible to make significant contributions online through several projects such as the Transcription Center, where people are invited to transcribe historic documents, or the suggestive Archives of American Gardens: Help us solve a mystery, in which people are required to participate in the “hunt” to identify unlabelled gardens across the United States.

Over 6,500 gardens and landscapes have been documented in the archives so far; they illustrate the work of hundreds of landscape architects and garden designers. The Archives are primarily photographic, a wide range of written information for each garden is also be available, including plans, planting lists, published articles, bibliographic citations, business records, and correspondence.

Find out more