Sharing Stories.

Speaking Objects

Sharing Stories – an Interdisciplinary Collaborative Project about Story Telling, Material Culture, Difficult Heritage and Multiperspectivity

About the project

About the project

Meaningful objects carry unique stories that conserve past memories, symbolize ideas and values, and help us define and present ourselves. At the same time, the same objects can carry very different meanings for others. The project Sharing Stories examines the place in which different narratives on the same objects meet and negotiate.

Between 2015 and 2017, the project Sharing Stories has invited the broad public to bring an object meaningful to them and to tell its story in 10 pop-up stations in Vienna. A special interview format developed for this project has produced around 150 intimate, rich and captivating stories. From simple, daily objects such as a key or a necklace, to specific or rare objects such as a box of a missing film or a handmade ritual mask, the object owners shared stories of love and friendship, loss and longing, belonging and alienation, faith, passion, travels and adventures, migration, assimilation, terror and hope.

Throughout the duration of the project, photos of the objects and summaries of the stories have been gradually uploaded to the project’s page at the museum’s website, thus forming an open-access archive. Now that the archive is open, the public is once again invited to look at the objects, read the stories, and contribute their own perspectives on these objects. Multiple perspectives on the same object can enhance our understanding of how we relate to our objects and to each other.

Project History

In late 2014, artist Tal Adler and historian and art-educator Karin Schneider were invited by the Weltmuseum Wien to collaborate on a new project that was imagined by the museum as a traveling reach-out project for the time in which the museum was closed for renovations. Together with the museum’s collaboration partner Brunnenpassage Wien, and the museum’s curators Claudia Augustat and Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo, the project Sharing Stories was developed through a unique interdisciplinary collaboration, around the artistic concept of Tal Adler. Bianca Figl from the museum’s education department lead the project.

Duration
April 2015 to October 2017

Contact
Bianca Figl, MA
bianca.figl@weltmuseumwien.at
+43 1 534 30-5126

Background

Background

Ethnographic museums such as the Weltmuseum Wien possess a difficult history of collecting, research and presentation. Many objects found in such museums today were acquired, or looted, in the context of colonialism. The history of racially-motivated research and expropriation, and the problems of interpreting and narrating ‘the other’, are often invisible in the display of these objects. The project Sharing Stories attempted to engage with this history and adopt alternative practices of collecting and narrating.

What do you mean by "culture"?

The stories people told us about their objects often brought up the question: what do we mean when we use the term ‘culture’? Is it an ‘innocent’ or ‘neutral’ term? Does everybody mean the same thing when using it?

The use of the term culture is ambiguous, politically charged and controversial.

To talk about ‘foreign cultures’ would mean to ascribe ‘typical characteristics’ to certain people. Museums had contributed to the development and dissemination of such concepts; exhibited items in museums were marked as representatives of a certain culture and its signifiers. In this way, the complexities and diversities of people and their stories was not taken in consideration. Today, in many ethnographic museums and researches, this concept of culture is in a process of giving way to an understanding of culture as a social practice, which is constantly changing and can never be generalised. However, the older concept of the term ‘culture’ that distinguishes between ‘us’ and ‘them’, that produces rigid labels and exclusions, is still apparent in politics, in museums- and in day-to-day practices.

Through discussions with the object owners who told us their stories, and in a series of events, the project Sharing Stories proposes public platforms on which the term can be discussed, analysed, re-evaluated and understood.

Partners and Stations

Partners and Stations

The Brunnenpassage has been a cooperation partner of the Weltmuseum Wien since the beginning of Sharing Stories. As the first pilot venue for collecting stories and objects, the Brunnenpassage has been intensely involved in the project’s development and collection of material since late 2014. Furthermore, the Brunnenpassage hosted a multitude of joint events with the Weltmuseum Wien in as early as spring 2015. Within the scope of this cooperation, the Brunnenpassage mostly offers its expertise with regard to transcultural target group work and aspects of diversity. In addition, it was part of the curatorial team throughout the entire project phase of 2015–2017.

On the side of the Brunnenpassage, one of the focus areas of their collaboration was the direct and low-key work with participating people and object owners. The Brunnenpassage is particularly interested in having the stories of those heard, whose voices are usually hardly represented in public institutions. As such, the Brunnenpassage serves as the initiator of bridging the gap between major cultural institutions, such as the Weltmuseum Wien, and the population.

ImPulsTanz Festival

In summer 2015, Sharing Stories took up residence on the workshop premises of the ImPulsTanz Festival at Vienna’s Arsenal. Once again, the project invited people to stop by with their objects and stories.

Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art Vienna

The partnership with the Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art was characterised by the intense exchange of ideas. Both museums were interested in tackling the fundamental questions behind their collecting activities of ‘the present’: Which contemporary objects should be collected and displayed, and most importantly, how?

spacelab

The production school spacelab is a low-threshold offer for adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24, who have an extended demand for support and assistance in planning their educational and vocational future. Sharing Stories visited three of their four locations –  spacelab_kreativ, spacelab_gestaltung, and spacelab_girls – and was integrated into the official education programme.

Caritas

The Franz Borgia House is one of twelve Caritas elderly nursing homes in Neustift am Walde, Vienna. The Franz Borgia House staff has prepared the interview partners prior to the interviews with Sharing Stories team, producing in depth and inspiring stories.

TEDx

As a cooperation partner of TEDxVienna (Technology, Education and Design – Ideas Worth Spreading), Sharing Stories also attended the international TEDx conference at Vienna’s Volkstheater in 2016 that took place under the motto “OUT THERE”.

ZOOM Children's Museum

The ZOOM Children’s Museum was another ideal venue to invite people of all ages to bring an object and tell its story. In the context of a creative workshop designed together with the colleagues from ZOOM and under permission from the parents, primary school pupils brought their objects, presented them to the group, and told us their stories.

Project Team

Project Team

Curatorial Team
Tal Adler | Claudia Augustat | Elisabeth Bernroitner | Bianca Figl | Karin Schneider | Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo

Curatorial Project Work
Jeannette Mayer-Severyns | Ivana Pilić

Interviewers
Elisabeth Bernroitner | Lisa Zalud | Oliviu Moiseanu | Karin Schneider | Ekaterina Holler | Bianca Figl | Christiane Thenius | Linda Wössner | Tal Adler

Project’s artistic concept: Tal Adler
Exhibition curated and conceptualized by Tal Adler (artist), Elisabeth Bernroitner (Brunnenpassage), Bianca Figl (Weltmuseum Wien) and Karin Schneider (art educator).

Sharing Stories is a project by Weltmuseum Wien in cooperation with Brunnenpassage and various partners: ImPulsTanz, Spacelab, TEDx Vienna, Volkskundemuseum, Caritas House Franz Borgia, and ZOOM Children’s Museum.

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