Unisa Press

Telling Stories of Pain and Hope

TellMuseums in South Africa and Ireland

Author: Mary Elizabeth Lange and Ruth Teer-Tomaselli
Published: January 13, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-77615-167-7
Number of pages: 186
This book is not available in electronic format

About the book

The histories of South Africa and Ireland have been tumultuous and traumatic. Both countries have experienced political repression, sectarian violence and oppression that still impact the spiritual well-being of people today. Their parallel histories are of colonialism, displacement and division, and a fight for land and sovereignty. Both countries have embarked on a process of healing and reconciliation, yet there is an ongoing struggle for reparation and/or reversal of previous injustices. Recognising that museums of the 21st century have the potential to contribute to catharsis and mutual understanding, this book reflects on selected museums in South Africa and Ireland that commemorate the pain of the past and the hope for the future. The authors spoke to a range of people who work at or with community, local, and national museums, recording their curatorial choices of stories, artefacts and exhibitions. They note how the museums’ staff tell these stories in a way that ensures that they do not impact the storytellers’ spiritual well-being negatively. The primary focus of the book is the way in which museum guides, curators and managers share their stories and the stories of their ancestors, and the stories of other people’s ancestors who were caught up in the conflict while interweaving the stories of the authors as well.

A reviewer noted that the book is “a wonderful introduction to a complex narrative which is described and explained with the personal stories of the author and foregrounds the reasons for their work and the individuals who have shared their stories. This clarity of focus and foregrounding of the storyteller guides and the personal stories of the authors makes this book more accessible to a large audience”. The book reviewers found it to be “engaging, interesting and very readable … thoroughly satisfying”. It is “accessible to specialist readers, as well as the general public with an interest in this topic and the histories included in it. It also has relevance to those academics working in the fields of oral history and museums”.