Quotable quotes on the importance of story

Stories matter to me. I believe the difference between history and heritage is the way we tell the story and that, oddly, there is more story in ‘heritage’ than in ‘history’.

Long, long ago, but not that for from here …
We have always told stories … this is me and my daughter (long ago)

I have recently found these two short but big quotes from  men far wiser than I.  They pack more thought into 20 words than I do in 200. Both quotes are about why the phenomenal use of stories across all media is so powerful and how deep it goes.

They highlight something about why stories matter so very much in interpretation (see here and here).

The first is from one of the American writers I most admire:

“We are lonesome animals. We spend all of our life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say – and to feel – ‘Yes, that is the way it is, or at least that is the way I feel it.’ You’re not as alone as you thought.”

John Steinbeck

When we talk about ‘connecting’ to heritage or to place, maybe that is what we really mean.

Actually not lonesome at all, simply miles away from anyone else (except me, the photographer) in Francois Peron National Park, Western Australia.

The second is more contemporary:

We are the first generation bombarded with so many stories from so many authorities, none of which are our own. The parable of the postmodern mind is the person surrounded by a media center: three television screens in front of them giving three sets of stories; fax machines bringing in other stories; newspapers providing still more stories. In a sense, we are saturated with stories; we’re saturated with points of view. But the effect of being bombarded with all of these points of view is that we don’t have a point of view and we don’t have a story. We lose the continuity of our experiences; we become people who are written on from the outside.

Sam Keen

And, in my view, that is why we must engage communities in telling, writing and creating their stories.

Local person recording the story of the place in her mother tongue at the Chiltern Gateway Centre, nr. Dunstable, England, UK (TellTale project 2008)

We all have a story.

Interpretation is about liberating new stories as well as retelling the old.

All pictures thanks to Peter Phillipson. For more go to Peter’s Flickr stream. Follow Peter @ TellTalePeter on Twitter.

About susancrosstelltale

Great visits to heritage and natural sites do not happen by accident. This blog is about the work that make special sites great places to visit. I hope it will be useful to visitors and host alike. Find out more at me and my blog.
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2 Responses to Quotable quotes on the importance of story

  1. Andy Ford says:

    Hi Susan,you know how much I love the power of stories, be they organisational narratives or shaggy dog tales, so I couldn’t resist chipping in.

    Stories are shared. We share them with and amongst each other, we all have a share in them. They cross boundaries – very few places, times, or people own a story. And because of that lots of people can tell them; as long as they feel part of the story. Perhaps that’s another connection we look to make and as interpreters, encourage others to make?

    Just last week I was sitting in a pub, an old pub with oak beams and horse brasses, you know the type…but that’s another story!

    Thanks for the tea break musings Susan! Keep it up.

    • Hi Andy, and thanks for your appreciation and encouragement. I completely agree about everything you say about stories. In fact, that’s what I talked about in the keynote at Museums Australia Conference last November – I think/ hope you would have liked that. I came up with the line ‘stories are contagious, we pass them on – that’s how we know they are stories’. which seems to chime with your thinking.

      As neither TellTale nor Interpretation Australia have yet managed to put that talk up on line, I am thinking that I might produce a serialised, illustrated version for the blog. Something else to look forward to…

      But before then, even more to look forward to at the IE conference in Pisa.

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