Basing House Museum is an open site of important historical ruins. Visitors benefit enormously from interactions with staff and volunteers to interpret it. With growing numbers, sometimes leading to queues at certain spots, it was felt that storytelling training could help reinvigorate the tours, and also bring to life the front of house role by adding object handling skills for both drop in sessions and to entertain summertime queues.
As these were experienced tour guides, we took them through a half-day workshop to add storytelling techniques to their repertoire. This refresher enabled them to bring back to life the site as it had been, by making the past a present for their visitors to imagine themselves into.
The afternoon was spent with handling objects: the story techniques from the morning were brought back into play, but often turned into questions so as to ensure this didn’t become a talk, but rather a conversation that explored the object, what it told us about itself, its use, its contemporary world.
The skills learnt were used across the site, with stories being used to illustrate the events that took place there and populate the ruins. The questioning, conversational aspects of the object handling training were further brought into play, turning all interactions with visitors into non-didactic, visitor led conversations with a purpose.