World War II and Occupied Europe: Stories from Greece

World War II and Occupied Europe: Stories from Greece

Authors’ Names

G.Chrysovitsanos*, A.Falierou*, H.Goulis*, A.Iakovidou*, P.Kalafata*, A.Karasimos*, H.Katsiadakis*, P.Potiropoulos*, E.Savaidou*, M.Spiliotopoulou*, G.Tzedopoulos*, E.Vernardaki*

*DARIAH-GR/ΔΥΑΣ – Academy of Athens


Digital storytelling exemplifies how scholars and educators can utilise technology to enrich research questions and to introduce innovative knowledge sharing methods. Digital storytelling converts the oldest medium of communication into a new medium, in which storytelling techniques are combined with digital media/technologies to produce captivating narrative experiences. Oral and aural material provides ready resources for DH research and knowledge communication/presentation, invaluable for describing, reviving and interpreting significant events. Besides, public history practice, deeply rooted in historic preservation, archival science, oral history, and museum curatorship, uses digital storytelling as a creative way for accessing digital cultural heritage and knowledge dissemination. Public history presentations are often combined with collecting the memories of site visitors and witnesses, so they are involved in a cocreation process.

This paper draws on experience gained from a project focused on the history of the 1940s in Greece. It involved the collection and restructuring of metadata of digitised historical sources from five major Greek archival institutions. The aim was to offer a digital platform for effective data recovery based on principles of interoperability. The project provided the opportunity to observe the function of storytelling on two distinct but interrelated levels.

First, narrations linked to life experience (accounts featuring the memories of exiled people and of survivors of war, genocide, or dictatorship and the experience of Axis occupation and resistance). They are a specific kind of historical sources modelled on personal experience and narrative; these ego-documents constitute important instances of storytelling that reveal individual agency, emotion and mnemonic reworkings of history.

Secondly, storytelling strategies adopted by institutions that preserve and publish archival sources, in order to form specific narratives of the history of the 1940s in Greece. The role and functions of traditional memory institutions is undergoing a conceptual shift from a focus on the object to a focus on the person, that presents new challenges and allows new audiences to be reached. According to Bruner, one of the ways in which people understand their world is through the “narrative mode” of thought, which is concerned with the meaning ascribed to experiences through stories, a procedure that triggers the mechanism of empathy (Bruner 1990).

This paper explores both these aspects of digitised and digital storytelling and investigates to what extent storytelling methods have been adopted in order to produce narratives that are both cognitively and emotionally compelling. This analysis is a case study on the function of storytelling in Digital Humanities, and particularly on its importance in the presentation and reception of history and culture.

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