Ruth Stewart-Verger
photo of Ruth

Giving Voice to History:


Giving Voice to History: Using Traditional Oral Storytelling to Convey Canada's History.

History is a living thing! It should be conveyed in a way that makes listeners CARE about it!

Giving voice to history is about more than telling a story of something that happened or of a person from the past. It is about bringing the character and the time to life. In order to do that, you must respect that person; that place; that time. The listeners have to feel immersed in the geography and the era -- the sights, the sounds, the smells, the mood.

This workshop will enable you to make history live for your audience.

Understanding History through stories:

Use the Arts to trigger deeper reactions from students/ listeners so that they develop a connection to the characters, the times or the themes of history as outlined by the curriculum.

No interpretation of history is completely balanced. There are dominant views and alternate perspectives. Through stories about the characters who create history, students can be introduced to a variety of perspectives, and to the social, economic, and personality driven influences of a time which led the characters to a specific path.

How do you

  • bring an understanding of what shaped the people and events to the listeners/students? (geography, politics, personalities, economics, cultural expectations, culture clashes…)
  • make the hero (or villain) speak from that time?
  • prevent the bias of "now" encroaching on the story of "then"? " provide the "Hooks" that will deepen a student's understanding
  • clarify interrelationships between people, places, events
  • increase cultural awareness
  • bring the layers of events, people, and historical periods to your students/listeners?

How does the art form impact on the listener?

Participants will be lead through a discussion of historical accuracy

  • how important is it to be accurate?
  • what impact will current "historical interpretations" seen in movies and novels have on the understanding of history?

This workshop is designed for

  • Museum staff and volunteers
  • History Teachers (intermediate, high school, university, college)
  • Amateur historians
  • History buffs
  • Storytellers

Social Justice and Cultural Awareness

Everyone brings a cultural bias and a personal set of values to any discussion. Becoming aware of one's own bias and values, and those of others helps to improve understanding of people and events.
Stories can present new view points and new perspectives in a not-threatening manner. They can offer a place to begin discussions. They can provide the background information which can trigger greater understanding of first the characters in the story, and then, with support, encourage listeners to expand this to the world. This workshop would use story to draw participants into a discussion of specific social justice issues. Participants would view artistic statements in the form of live performance segments, and video clips. Participants would create an artistic piece (or describe a piece they would create) that would draw attention to a specific social justice issue.
The following questions would be explored by the participants using one specific performance as a basis to move from:

How do you:

  • bring an understanding of what shaped the people and events to the listener/viewer? (geography, politics, personalities, economics, cultural expectations, culture clashes…),
  • provide the "Hooks" that will deepen the listener's/student's understanding,
  • clarify the interrelationships between people, places, events,
  • increase cultural awareness

"We do not make history so much as we are made by it. And our stories reflect us as much as they re-create in our children's lives all that we think and believe in... now". Jane Yolen

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