Where to begin with your story

Archives are alive with stories and the best place to start will be to think about what you already have within your collection. What engaging content already exists? Do you have anything within your collection that is visually striking or documents that have a clear story you can tell interestingly and concisely online?

“Stories are important. They have a power to change things. Stories are how we learn. They can change how we do things. They explain complex things simply. They inspire us. They spark our imagination. They often have a moral to share. With each great story comes life’s important lessons. When you have heard a great story, you seldom forget it” (David Hieatt, Do Lectures)

Identify what you find to be the most interesting records or themes in your collection and consider the story’s connection to your audience. Who do you think would be interested in the story you have discovered? Think about both the emotional connections to the story as well as the historical significance. Consider how you can make your content relevant to your audience and explore why you are telling this story now. Does it have a connection to current events, dialogues or politics? Does it tell us something about who we are today or who we once were? Why is it important to preserve and remember this collection? What difference would it make if it had been lost forever?

Once you get to the heart of the story you want to tell, it is time to think about your audience within the context of your digital engagement. Consider the audience’s experience of the story:

  • How does the content speak to them?
  • How do you navigate them through your story?
  • How do you want the audience to feel?

Does your audience have a role to play? For example, do you want them to share your content with others? Comment with their own experiences? Plan a visit to the archive? Ask a question? Attend an event or exhibition?

It is always useful to map out your content or story into key moments to help you further identify ways to connect with your audience and maintain a clear and consistent story. This may not be necessary for every type of digital engagement such as social media. However, you should always consider the nature of the platform you are creating for and how your audience will interact with your content.

Exercise – where to start

If you’re struggling with where to begin or which story to tell online, then the following questions may help you find a starting point for your next digital engagement content:

  • What is your favourite item in the archive and why?
  • How could you unearth an untold story and engage audiences with a series of forgotten and hidden stories from your archive?
  • What’s the most unusual item that your archive holds? Tell an unusual story or explain how the item ended up in your archive.
  • Which item are you proud to hold within your archive? Tell the emotional connection between this item, your archive and the world.
  • Which item(s) could be described as the most significant that your archive holds? Engage people with the value of your collection.

Further development

This guide  below breaks down how to understand and map your overall digital activity:

Digital Pathways – Understanding and mapping digital activity

The next section of the Creative Inspiration Guide focuses on cross-platform creativity.