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2 minutes to read Posted on Friday May 14, 2021

Updated on Friday May 14, 2021

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

Explore fantastic examples of storytelling with digital culture

Digital storytelling is the topic in focus this month on Europeana Pro, as we hear from the Europeana Network Association’s Task Force on Europeana as a ‘powerful platform for storytelling’. Today, they share the digital storytelling examples they collected from around the web - and around the world - as a longlist and three detailed case studies.

Picture of a Parca (plural, Parcæ) as the female personifications of destiny who directed the lives (and deaths) of humans and gods. They are often called the Fates in English, and their Greek equivalent is the Moirai

Title: Párka

Creator: Szász Endre

Institution: Rippl-Rónai Megyei Hatókörű Városi Múzeum - Kaposvár

Country: Hungary

CC BY

Creating a longlist of storytelling we love

The challenge we set our Task Force members was simple - find examples of storytelling with digital culture that you love. We set up a form, having brainstormed the type of information we wanted to collect. And we asked members to be selective - we wanted the final longlist to be both inspirational and useful (easy to search and explore), rather than encyclopedic and exhaustive. 

The longlist is presented in two ways - as a spreadsheet containing all the information collected, which can be used to search for specific information, like examples in a particular language or examples that use audio. And as a Padlet - a more visual resource with thumbnails and including the reasons why the examples were chosen - our members’ personal responses.

What did we discover? 

The longlist contains a broad variety of experiences, from the high-profile and mainstream, such as the Stories element from the Rijksmuseum website, to the more quirky, including a guided tour of Slovak art told by a hamster, to 13 hours of streamed train journeys through Europe. For each example, members answered questions ranging from the basic - like what is it and who made it - to the more detailed - such as how much agency does the audience have? While a detailed analysis will be available in the Task Force report when published, some key points are:

  • There is no one singular format or genre style that appears to be more successful than another. Instead, we see a range of approaches, with a trend to using more visual content over text-based content. 

  • The storytelling examples appear to aim to inform or educate, and then entertain, and are generally aimed at a broad audience of the general public who are already invested in cultural heritage, rather than at particular demographic groups.

  • The narrative style tends to be informal, personal and expert, with a specific topic as its focus.

  • Almost none of the examples are multilingual in design. 70% were available in one language only, with a heavy leaning to English. 

  • There is a broad range of results in terms of the level of interactivity in the experience. Some examples are linear with no interactivity. Others are complex with multiple options, giving the viewer greater control over the journey.

Three case studies

The longlist showed us that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to storytelling with digital culture in terms of format, content and approach. However, we see that our examples lead the viewer to feel that they are informed and want to know more. To find out more, we then looked in detail at three examples of very different digital storytelling experiences covering a range of formats, target audiences and resources. We used the Europeana Impact Playbook’s Empathy Map to identify the emotional engagement members felt, and to discuss how the experience led them to feel that way.

A Picture of Change for a World in Constant Motion is a long-form text/image blog ('close read') from Jason Farago of the New York Times, focusing on Katsushika Hokusai's woodblock print ‘Ejiri in Suruga Province.’ The storytelling is perceived by the audience as very engaging and inspiring. Its style of narration and language is informal, personal and evocative (multisensory). Image are presented with a close-up technique that produces compassion for the characters and makes the audience feel like they are travelling through the time and the space with the author.  Hear speakers Alicia Desantis and Gabriel Gianordoli from the New York Times talk about the Close Reads series in our webinar.

#MetKids is a digital resource from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City composed of an interactive map and a digital storytelling discovery strategy made for, with and by kids 7-12 years-old. The emotional engagement #MetKids produces is based on creating connections with the past, involving the audience actively, fostering a sense of wonder and the thrill of getting close to an object in order to discover the hidden stories behind it. We hear from Sofie Andersen and Benjamin Korman from The Met in our webinar.

‘You are Flora Seville’ from the Egham Museum is a choose-your-own-adventure Twitter experience following the fictional Flora Seville, illustrated with the museum's collections. The story of Flora Seville is well-structured; readers feel immersed in the historical context in which Flora lived through the museum’s showcased collections, and drawn into her personal (fictional) life through the informal, personal style and the agency to choose what Flora does next. There is an element of surprise along with the possibility to choose how to continue the story. Steven Franklin tells us more about Flora in our webinar.

The full case studies will be available in the final Task Force report.

Register for our webinar

If you’d like to hear more about these case studies, join our webinar on 9 June at 14:00 CEST.

We’ll hear from Gabriel Gianordoli - a Graphics and Multimedia Editor at The New York Times. His work combines art direction, design and programming to create interactive news experiences. And Alicia DeSantis - a Deputy Editor on the culture desk at The New York Times. She works with teams across the newsroom to produce multimedia and creative projects that speak to the fields of art, music, dance, television and film, amongst others. They will be speaking about using interaction to look at art criticism in a new way.

Steven Franklin is Digital Engagement Officer at the UK's National Archives. Steven shares his expertise in engagement, including reflections on the Flora Seville Twitter storytelling experience he was involved with in his former role at The Egham Museum.

Sofie Andersen is Head of Digital Content and Benjamin Korman is Producer and Editor of Digital Content at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. They will reflect on #MetKids and tell us about some of their latest engagement activities.

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