History Labs is Stockholm Museum of Women’s History’s transdisciplinary method for reflection on questions that are challenging and complex. History Labs is a practical method that deals with finding, developing, adding perspectives, problematizing and supplementing the picture of history and making the invisible visible. It is also a method that wants to bridge the gap between artistic practice, research and museum practice. By working transdisciplinary and bringing together researchers, artists, historians, museum staff, we can create contexts that enable new perspectives and new knowledge.
In which way is this method alternative?
History Labs is a practical method that is about finding, developing, adding perspectives, problematizing and supplementing the picture of history and making the hitherto invisible visible. It is also a method that wants to bridge the gap between artistic practice, research and museum practice. History Labs is a method for reflection on issues that are challenging and complex. Instead of searching for the correct answers and results, History Labs opens up for new questions and perspectives on various issues.
The goal is to interdisciplinary and creatively investigate and make available xxx in existing archives and collections, which gives more people the opportunity to take part in the common cultural heritage.
It is important that those who participate in the conversation have different backgrounds and experiences. History Labs is a conversation format for the whole person where their experiential as well as professional competence is called upon. All knowledge and experience are valued equally. By working transdisciplinary and bringing together researchers, artists, historians, museum staff, we can create contexts that enable new perspectives and new knowledge.
The conversation leader plays an important role during History Labs. It is important that the conversation leader provides support by leading the participants – without influencing the conversation in any way. The conversation leader’s role is to create a safe and responsive room for the participants.
In which context was the method developed?
In 2016, Helene Larsson Pousette, curator and Fredrik Svanberg, head of research at the Statens Maritima Museer (Swedish National Maritime and Transport Museums), formulated a proposal to establish an interdisciplinary platform with a focus on history writing, history use and critical cultural heritage research – History Labs.
Pernilla Glaser, author, method developer and educator, has also been contributing to the development of the method as a conversation leader.
Settings and participants the method is best suited for
The method can partly be used within the culture and cultural heritage sector, but the techniques can also be used as a conversation format in teaching and in workplaces. The method can be used by students, artists, academics and professionals in the culture and heritage sector. Above all, we see that the method opens up more people to examine archival material.
The techniques from History Labs can also be used as an introductory tool in an information meeting, as a way to quickly collect the views of many through reflection in small groups – based on a theme.
History Labs also emphasizes raising the cross-disciplinary perspective in the different parts of the business and describing different possible approaches to a theme. In the spirit of History Labs, special emphasis can also be placed on accommodating broad representation in as many contexts as possible.
Experiences with the method
At Stockholm Museum of Women’s History’s we have tested the method on three occasions – always in collaboration with another organization. We have explored themes such as black history and women during two historic sailing expeditions linked to museum collections and archival materials, as well as #metoo. The participants had access to archive material and then talked about questions such as, for example:
● How can we find the women in a male coded material and data?
● What stories about the women should be there but have been left out of the historiography?
● How can new discoveries and information enrich the data that already exists so that the women are made visible in the material?
● How can a digital material, such as the #metoo calls, be collected and what ethical and practical issues must be resolved around tagging, personal data, ownership and research in the future?
We have on all occasions collaborated with the conversation leader Pernilla Glaser. We have used the method to gather different people to talk together about complex and important issues. The result has been rewarding, both for the participants but also for us as a museum.
See photos and read more about earlier History Labs at www.kvinnohistoriska.se/historylabs.