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Immersive exhibitions bring stories of past generations to life

To coincide with Black History Month, two interactive storytelling exhibitions created by award-winning social entrepreneur and artist Janet Douglas are on display at the National Memorial Arboretum, within the National Forest in Staffordshire. Open to the public until 2 December, the multimedia exhibitions showcase generational stories and share insights into the lives of those who left their homeland to forge a new life in a foreign country.

Visitors to the 150-acre Arboretum can experience the interactive textile exhibition, ‘The Chapter of Our Lives’, which recreates and revives photographs to tell the stories of previous generations. The exhibition debuted as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and is designed to be interacted with; visitors can touch exhibits to unlock audio recordings that provide a narrative to the photos printed on fabric, bringing each story to life through art and technology.

This is complemented by ‘The Story Continues’, a brand new exhibition commissioned by the National Memorial Arboretum, that charts the story of Janet’s mother, Icylin Douglas, and her journey to the UK, using a fusion of music, photographs and vocal sound bites. Visitors embark on a journey through a multisensory experience immersing them in the stories that are being told.

“Sharing the touching stories and experiences of my participants with audiences at the Arboretum is an opportunity to showcase their inspiring journeys and emotional triumphs through their photographs and narratives,” said Janet Douglas. “It is an honour to be able to touch the hearts of those who engage with these stories and photographs and I truly hope this keeps the conversations going and to continue sharing them with the world.”

“Losing my father in 1994 made preserving my mother’s memories even more significant since there was no audio recording of his voice. In order to preserve family history and memories, capturing the stories behind iconic photographs from the 60s and beyond was a meaningful project for me as it allowed me to hear and record my mother’s experiences,” continues Janet. “I wanted to get people talking about the memories they have at the time the photograph was taken and give participants the freedom to choose their own pictures, as they hold significant memories. My hope is that by sharing these stories those who engage with the project will be left feeling happy and content.”

“As the Nation’s year-round place to remember, we are always seeking innovative ways to share stories, and visitors who explore these exhibitions will find themselves immersed in the personal stories and histories of people who travelled to the UK and made the country their home,” said Rachel Smith, Head of Participation and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum. “We continuously strive to create a space where everyone can gather, reflect and forge new memories and this collaboration with Janet Douglas provides an opportunity for visitors to gain an insight into the experiences of those featured in the exhibition.”

Chapters of Our Lives and the Story Continues are free to visit and will be on display at the National Memorial Arboretum until 2 December. To learn more about the exhibitions, please visit: https://www.thenma.org.uk/what’s-on/exhibitions

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