The education project “TAM TAM” was conceived and experimented by the Museum “Peoples and Cultures” throughout 2011 in close cooperation with Fondazione ISMU (Initiatives and Studies on Multiethnicity), Education Sector, “Heritage and Interculture” programme.
Thanks to new funding from the Culture Department of Regione Lombardia, “TAM TAM” has been revisited in the light of the lessons learned in the experimental phase, and is now part of the Museum’s ordinary educational offer.
Museum “Peoples and Cultures” of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Milan).
The project is co-financed by the Culture Department of Regione Lombardia and the Museum.
With reference to the Museum “Peoples and Cultures”:
• to revise and consolidate the project’s structure with a view to including it in the Museum’s ordinary educational offer
• to further explore the potential of new approaches to the interpretation and mediation of collections in an intercultural perspective
• to include project participants’ voices in interpretation, documentation and display
• to increase the cultural, educational and social impact of the project on the surrounding territory and community.
With reference to the project team (museum officers, museum educators, cultural mediators with an immigrant background, external experts in storytelling and in heritage education in an intercultural perspective):
• to reinforce the attitudes and skills jointly developed during the experimental phase (2011)
• to acquire new skills in storytelling and autobiography as key tools for the interpretation and mediation of the Museum’s heritage in an intercultural perspective
• to enhance the planning expertise of museum educators and mediators in a cooperative perspective
• to create an ever closer relationship and cooperation between museum staff and mediators, by tapping into different personal and professional perspectives, experiences and knowledge bases.
With reference to participants in the “TAM TAM” narrative trails:
• to explore the collections from unusual perspectives, to acknowledge their different layers of meaning, to appreciate their potential “resonance” with personal life experiences
• to take part in the process initiated through the narrative trails in a dialogical, reflective and critical manner
• to be able to understand different points of view
• to develop an open attitude towards diversity and “otherness”
• to develop a critical understanding of one’s own experience, ideas, emotions, desires, fears and hopes, and an ability to share them with others through storytelling
• to perceive the Museum as a place where knowledge is not only “transmitted”, but co-produced
• to acknowledge the Museum as a resource for reflection, mutual knowledge and recognition, (self-)representation, challenging one’s own assumptions and beliefs, personal and collective growth
• to increase levels of use and awareness of the collections.
Native and migrant adults, selected outside formal learning contexts.
Duration of the project
See the paragraph “Project description” to run through the different phases of the 2012 project. “TAM TAM” is now an integral part of the Museum’s ordinary educational offer.
New funding from Regione Lombardia allowed the Museum to revise and expand the narrative trails and objects involved, with a view to including “TAM TAM – Tutti Al Museo” in its ordinary educational offer.
“TAM TAM” 2012 was organised in the following main phases:
1. Reassessment of the narrative trails developed in the experimental phase and additional training (January-February 2012): the first step was to reassess and revise the narrative trails developed in 2011 in the light of the formative and summative evaluation’s results (regular feedback discussion at the end of each working meeting with museum educators and mediators, self-evaluation questionnaire on the planning process and project outputs, feedback of participants at the end of museum visits and semi-structured interviews), and most notably under the guidance of the external expert Maria Grazia Panigada, who worked throughout all the project phases at reinforcing the educators and mediators’ storytelling skills: development of a “script”, facial and gestural expressiveness, connections and intersections between individual narratives, active engagement of visitors... By contrast, storytelling techniques had only been a marginal part of the project team’s initial training in 2011.
2. Development of new narrative trails (February-March 2012): this phase, coordinated by external experts (Maria Grazia Panigada, expert in storytelling applied to heritage mediation; Simona Bodo and Silvia Mascheroni, experts in heritage education in an intercultural perspective), was devoted to the joint planning of narrative trails in the permanent exhibition spaces, taking the cue from the idea that museum objects, however distant and valuable they may seem at first glance, have stories to tell which are not only fascinating, but also relevant to our life experience, and therefore a vital dialogue may be established between them and the “biography” of personal, everyday objects (the “subjective heritage” of both project participants, and museum educators and mediators). The development of the new trails started from a meticulous work of observation and description of the selected museum objects; this allowed educators and mediators to ground their personal narratives, images and emotions to the inevitable starting point: the Museum collections.
3. Testing of the revised and new narrative trails (April-October 2012): these were addressed to small groups of adults (max. 10, involved in two consecutive meetings) and structured as follows:
• first meeting: museum educators and mediators guide participants in a number of narrative trails centred around a “conversation” between their own personal objects (chosen to reflect key episodes/memories of their lives) and some artefacts of the Museum revealing unexpected links with them. The purpose of this first meeting is to shed new light on the richness of potential “narratives” hidden in the Museum collections, and to provide participants with suggestions on how to select their own object, as well as to find out about possible connections with the collections
• second meeting: participants bring with them their own object to the Museum (not necessarily tangible items, but also poetry, dances, legends...); they share its story with the other participants, museum educators and mediators, and describe the relationship with one or more objects from the Museum collections; they fill in a documentation record (with the typical technical data of ordinary museum documentation records) and a “narrative record” (where does it come from? why was it chosen? what story does it tell? ...) of their object, assisted by a museum educator or mediator; the records become integral part of the Museum’s documentation system.
The first two meetings are filmed by a video operator for insertion within exhibitions spaces (on two touch screens) as a means of opening up new interpretation of collections for all visitors.
The third meeting originally envisaged in the experimental phase of the project (see “TAM TAM” 2011) was abolished, following the difficulties met by project participants to take part in three consecutive meetings.
4. Summative evaluation (December 2012): final feedback discussions with project team and participants.
5. Creation of permanent audio-aids for the museum visit (November 2012 - January 2013): under the guidance of museum staff and external experts, educators and mediators developed “scripts” for MP3 players to be made available at all times for visitors as an alternative audio-guide to the Museum collections.
Lessons to be learned
- The new narrative trails confirmed the key lesson emerged from the experimental phase, i.e. their ability to go against the grain of traditional museum-visiting patterns, often hasty and superficial, by promoting a gradual acquaintance between participants and collections, initiating a dialogue between “museum objects” and personal objects, and creating a shared heritage of stories and life experiences of individuals (not only project participants, but also museum staff, educators and mediators) with different cultural and social backgrounds. Through this ongoing process, project participants engage in a dialogue with educators and mediators, share their perspectives, experiences and knowledge bases, and become in turn storytellers and mediators of the Museum’s collections.
- “TAM TAM” is also helping the Museum to enable people to talk across the collections and freely choose the objects with which they want to engage, regardless of their roots and traditions. Storytelling in particular turned out to be a powerful vehicle to create new, unexpected connections between the “history” of museum objects and the “histories”, life experiences and “subjective heritage” of individuals.
- As for the project team members, their continued collaboration resulted in: a greater care in the development of narrative trails; a greater sense of a concerted narrative, in spite of (and because of) the multiplicity of voices and storytelling styles; an increased pleasure in telling one’s own stories, as well as in listening to those of others; a reinforced mutual trust, which allowed everyone to bring to the surface intimate and sometimes problematic aspects of their personal story, so much so that the whole experience was defined by many team members as “therapeutic”.
- The Museum met many difficulties in promoting “TAM TAM” 2012 and reaching out to a wider audience, partly due to the complexity of the project, hardly conveyable in a leaflet or short releases – and therefore requiring a painstaking work of “one-to-one” dissemination –, but also to the scarce familiarity with adult visitors, the traditional audience of the Museum being largely made up of school groups.
- Compared with the experimental phase, participation in the second meeting (where project participants bring their own object to the Museum) was lower. In some cases this may have happened because of actual difficulties in taking part in two consecutive meetings, but in others there was a certain reluctance to actively take part. This may be due to a variety of factors: a lesser inclination to sharing one’s own stories with a group of strangers; the initial enthusiasm (explicitly shown by many participants at the end of the first meeting) replaced between the first and the second meeting by uncertainty (which object do I choose? which story do I tell?), apathy (personal narratives cannot be improvised: I must work at mine), fear of inadequacy (the narrative trails of educators and mediators were an authentic theatre performance: will I be up to it?).
To sort this out in 2013, the project team is considering the opportunity to address “TAM TAM” narrative trails to groups already formed in more “structured” contexts (e.g. community centres, centres for adult learning, centres for the elderly, last years of secondary schools), and with a reference person (e.g. an educator or social operator) who may promote the active participation of visitors in all phases of the project by facilitating preparatory work and follow-up activities to the museum visits.
Publications / other resources
- All narrative trails are published in: Bodo S., Mascheroni S., Panigada M. G. (a cura di), Un patrimonio di storie. La narrazione nei musei, una risorsa per la cittadinanza culturale, Mimesis Edizioni, Milano, 2016
- Excerpts from the filmed conversations and narrative trails are available in the “Video” section of this website, as well as on the Youtube Channel of the Museum.
Museo Popoli e Culture del PIME
via Mosè Bianchi, 94 – 20149 Milano
- project coordinators: Lara Fornasini and Paola Rampoldi
- Simona Bodo and Silvia Mascheroni
- Maria Grazia Panigada
Project description published in