The moving image has long been an important vehicle for telling stories for museums. Theaters are a common feature among museums of many sizes. And films have also become commonplace as a part of exhibitions. I learned first-hand as a Museum Technician at the United States Holocaust Museum the powerful nature of film. Whether it is a historic clip or a present day oral history given by a Survivor, film has the ability to convey information and create an emotional connection to the story.
One of the most exciting aspects in recent years has been the introduction of easy-to-use film editing programs. Whether one is using iMovie or Final Cut, one no longer has to be a Hollywood producer to create compelling dramas. Also with the introduction of video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, museums have the ability to push their broadcasts to a larger number of people. And cost is no longer a threshold that museums can’t reach. This is a concept that would have been hard to imagine even 10 years ago.
One observation that I have made about these self-generated films is that the quality of the footage is not pristine. And that doesn’t matter. Once again we learn that the power of film is in the compelling nature of what is seen and not how directed the content is. If millions of people tune in to watch a sneezing panda, then it must be something to this approach.
I recently had the opportunity to work on a project called “China: Through My Eyes.” It is a series about two young girls from Massachusetts that travel to China and share their adventures from their point of view.
Now I am no Francis Ford Coppola. But for the purposes of this project, that doesn’t matter. My shaky-hand technique doesn’t get in the way of the interesting observations that these two young girls make.
Museums should be thinking about how to incorporate film into their storytelling arsenal. The key is not to be turned off by the challenge. Take a chance. Not every film is going to be great, but with a little forward planning it is possible to create a regular series of online programming that can serve as a compelling way to engage with audiences and have them return time and again to your web site to learn about all the sticky stuff that you are working on.
Remember if if your web site doesn’t support video clips, it is possible to create your own channel on a number of free sites that will host your content. Where is your audience? They are on the web and that’s where you should be too!
In the second episode, a good night’s sleep finds Ava and Sofie bright-eyed and ready for a visit with the Hong Kong Girl Guides, a faraway equivalent of their own familiar Daisy and Brownie troops back home. With some gifts and patches to share, their troop vests proudly worn and eager to meet Chinese girls their own age, Sofie and Ava take part in an Easter basket making project with a troop leader named Circle, watch older Guides molding chocolate Easter treats, meet a younger Happy Bee Guide, and address a roomful of Girl Guides, receiving rock star treatment and making many new friends.
Through My Eyes is a production of Thunderball Entertainment Group, the Cape Cod Community Media Center and WGBH Boston. Learn more at wgbh.org/kids.
Boston’s WGBH is PBS’s single largest producer of beb and TV content (prime-time and children’s programs), including Nova, Masterpiece, Frontline, Antiques Roadshow, Curious George, Arthur, and The Victory Garden. Learn more about China: Through My Eyes on their Facebook page at facebook.com/tmeyes.