In June 2021 Story Valley collaborated with Rebelah (a project of Storytelling Center Amsterdam and Rijks University Groningen) and brought students together to experience the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands for the project Connecting Stories | Connecting People. Two-thirds of the participating students said they have visited museums before, but for 33% of the students this was a new experience. During the excursion, students viewed museum objects and heard stories about the collections and exhibitions with interactions between Dutch students and newcomers (migrants or refugees). The feedback from this event was very positive.
Before the event, a survey was conducted to assess the students expectations and also previous experiences. The participants were informed that they would work with museum objects and the stories around them. Most of the students didn’t know what to expect, but hoped that it would be a nice event. More than half of the students reported that they already interact with people from other cultures and know people who have come to the Netherlands as newcomers or migrants. All of the students reported that they usually tell stories with friends or family, and 56% considered themselves good at language (reading, writing, English).
There was a lot of enthusiasm from all parties involved with nice things coming out of the collaboration. Dutch and foreign students, inspired by what they saw at the museum, told stories filled with energy and emotion about their own lives. The combination of an object’s biography and one’s own biography worked well together and would be compatible with a program of Art & Design.
Some feedback from the students acknowledged the difficulties of communicating with newcomers who spoke very limited Dutch and no English. This created a challenge for participants to understand each other, to build bonds, and to complete the assignment. However, a lot has been learned through this event and the follow up evaluation.
The Connecting Stories | Connecting People event is worth repeating again utilizing the knowledge gained from the experience. For example, in future projects it could be a good idea to ask students to bring items (or pictures) from their home country. In this way they can share their culture through storytelling and also have deeper connections with the objects.
Story Valley will continue in the next year. The project partners are looking forward to planning future events and connecting people through storytelling. They are proud of the enthusiasm from all of the participants and hope they will continue sharing their oral history in engaging and creative ways.