Stories of the World
Run with the support of the National Youth Agency (NYA), Stories of the World (SotW) is a unique and innovative UK-wide programme. It also forms a central part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The programme puts young people at the heart of the curatorial process, to present exciting new museum exhibitions across the UK. SotW explores the UK’s place in the world, and the world’s place in the UK.
It investigates the extraordinary global collections museums hold, and connects them with relevant communities in the UK and abroad.
SotW is led by the Arts Council in partnership with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). The programme began in 2010, and the finale will be a network of major exhibitions. This will leave a legacy of youth participation across museums.
SotW is the largest ever youth participation initiative run by museums. Some 1,500 young people have been recruited. They have received training, skills development and accreditation along the way. These 1,500 young people represent diverse groups, including:
- Those not in education, employment or training (NEETs)
- Young workers
- School pupils
The NYA is proud to back such an unique and exciting project. It brings people together to share their stories across the generations and between cultures. SotW inspires young people by connecting them with their communities, and by firing their imagination to design and develop their own series of exhibitions.
How the NYA’s Hear by Right is helping to create a lasting legacy
Through embedding their positive participation through the NYA’s Hear by Right framework, young people are not just participants in the programme. They are also leaders. Young people are involved in all areas of the exhibitions. That means everything from display, design and interpretation, through to marketing, promotion and front of house.
Using the NYA’s Hear by Right is helping to leave a lasting legacy on how museums, libraries and archives work with young people. This approach is also opening new career paths for young people, and is developing:
- New skills
- New ways of working
- New ways of developing and presenting exhibitions
SotW demonstrates the vital educational role that museums and libraries continue to play in our communities. But it also highlights how creative, innovative and inspiring young people can be when they are given the opportunity.
More information on Hear by Right
Why the Young Person’s Steering Group proved so important
A key factor in the SotW programme’s success so far has been their Young People’s Steering Group, which is fully supported by the NYA. SotW’s Steering Group first met in November 2010 in Birmingham. It considered the different ways young people could take part in the SotW, and began addressing questions like:
- What do you want out of the museums?
- How can museums involve young people better?
- What would you like to see happen before 2012?
- How would you like the project to continue after 2012?
The Steering Group’s members represent young people from across the country. Now well-established, The Group has helped plan and deliver events. These include the 2011 Youth Summit, SotW conference 2011, and the Parliament Event 2012.
Evidence and opportunities
The young people have also been developing a bank of evidence and case studies to:
- Capture what’s happening with young people and SotW
- Help change young people’s involvement across museums
The Steering Group has also:
- Achieved a Developing Leadership Skills qualification
- Been invited to influential events
- Taken the opportunity to host, present and facilitate sessions at the SotW Conference
The Steering Group has invested considerable time and effort into developing a document for museums, to help encourage young people into the museums. The NYA will continue supporting the Steering Group until the end of 2012.
Lauren Campbell - National Museum of Scotland
Lauren Campbell had what she called an “unfulfilling job”. She was keen to spend time doing something she enjoyed. Lauren was also keen to work with young people, to be challenged in a new way, and to get some “intellectual stimulation”. Lauren was particularly attracted to SotW, because she wanted to be part of “something BIG” in the wider “cultural world”.
She enjoyed working with the National Museum of Scotland (NMS), a prestigious museum with which she feels a “personal connection”. She enhanced her existing research, public speaking and debating abilities. And she developed new museum-based skills.
Lauren hopes to do an MA in Museum Studies, and to have a career in the museums sector. Lauren is keen to remain involved with the museum in other projects. She wanted to help create a “lasting place for young people” at the NMS. Lauren liked working as part of the NMS opening weekend, and joining the SotW national steering group.
Kway Aobkawe - London Transport Museum
Kway was excited by SotW, as it offered her the chance to take part in “something big”. She was also interested in joining in a community project, with close links to the London 2012 Olympics. As part of her personal journey, Kway was keen to act as a voice for young people, and to help engage young people through museums.
The museum she worked with was the London Transport Museum. She wanted to use the museum and its collection as an inspiration for young people, and to create projects for young people within the museum.
Although her project is now complete, she says this “is not the end!”. Kwai is determined to make museums even more “young people friendly”. She has a number of suggestions on running young people’s workshops, and what more can be done with collections to engage young people.
Kwai is interested in the design side of engineering, and how this involves creativity, exploration and art. Amongst other things, Kway says she is “exploring and visiting more museums”. She is also “looking at other things I can do for young people, museums or youth led organisations”, to develop the relationships between them.
Lucinda Abel - Brighton Museum and Art Gallery
Lucinda wanted learn more about the role of museums, as she is interested in developing a career in a community outreach with museums.
A Brighton University student, she joined Brighton Museum’s ‘Museum Collective’. The Collective were consulted on plans for improving one of the museums collections. “We voiced our opinions on the designs and marketing,” she said. Lucinda enjoyed many aspects of SotW, including “learning about the behind the scenes of museums, and how they engage their local community, and create a space for them to discover and express themselves”. She said: “I wanted to learn about the different types of models of distributing knowledge creatively to people. It has been a valuable experience and has inspired me to develop a community arts project celebrating local stories from Brighton Seafront with puppet animations”.
Lucinda believes that SotW will have an ongoing impact. “The museum is always evolving,” she said. “There is always a forum of young people that organise projects and events for young people, and I think this will just get bigger and better the more we do.”
Young people from the Stories of the World project attended a special event at the Houses of Parliament in July to showcase the international nature of museum and gallery collections across the UK.
The Arts in Parliament event, which was attended by more than 300 people was led by Arts Council England in partnership with London 2012, and was part of a wider national roadshow to display international collections in new ways and in unexpected venues.
Compared by Stories of the World participant Andrew McMillan, Stories of the World and their young curators showcased a number of creative projects using fashion, debate, performance, poetry and film.
During the event, members of the National Youth Agency coordinated Stories of the World steering group explained the importance of young people engaging in museums through a powerful poem. The transcript is below.
Stories of the World Steering Group Arts in Parliament Poem
Lucinda Abel (Right hand side)
Imagine a world where young people are empowered to participate, where they are welcomed and taken seriously. Treated as equals offered the freedom and flexibility to meet their needs, imagine the future of not only museums but all sectors of society finally taking advantage of an infinite resource of unadulterated creativity. A world so bright with optimism that we would all see, clear as day that the youth are the futuret
Elmi Ali (Second from right)
Yes, we are just as interested if not more interested in all things interesting. But therein lies the catch, museum collections and methodology are things we might not all find palatable, but we like a good story just as much as the next person. Try me for instance; I know more about paisley prints in Persia and India than I do about ‘call of duty’. Paisley: a small weaving town in Scotland famous for its shawls and it lent its name to the print way before the tear drop became a gang symbols.
We are the future
Museums are naturally relevant to the here and now. As comfortably as the present sits on the pasts shoulders. Use plain language to show me why it's relevant. You will give me wisdom. You will tell me stories and I will listen. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And let me discover Because we are the future
Aobakwe Mokgakagadi (Second from left)
I believe a museum is a social and creative space. A space for endless opportunities. Opportunities to leave a legacy. So welcome me, Let me be inspired. Let me be wowed by the artefacts.
Let me be a young and fresh memory keeper. Invite me for behind the scenes tours. Let me take a picture To share or tweet it. Better yet, make an app. I want to engage. We are the future
We are the future
Izara Louise(Left hand side)
I visited museums as a child, I used to have so much fun exploring and running around I wonder if there’s an opportunity for me to get involved now. So I can contribute, challenge thought, inspire reflection. Give me a real job to do: let me help people discover the wonders of the collection. Perhaps a youth-led programme, where I can build my skills and be valued for my time. Do I want to work in museums? Maybe… if I get a taste of that working life I just might. So feed my curiosity, inspire me, take me on a journey back to where history was born. Together we can leave a legacy, an everlasting echo so teach me all you want to preserve so it can continue to live on.
We are the future
Invest in US!