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My Favorite Session at South by Southwest Interactive 2011

“Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling” about innovative and interactive documentary Web projects was spellbinding.

I’m not saying this session was the best one at South by Southwest (SxSW), I’m saying it was the best one I went to. Titled “Unexpected Non-Fiction Storytelling” it appealed to me because of the storytelling aspect. This is a hot topic in art museum interpretation these days, as educators understand the power of the story to connect visitors to art. The non-fiction part sealed the deal, we don’t usually do fiction in museums. By the way, I don’t necessarily consider that a good thing, but that’s another topic for another blog.

Director Tommy Pollotta showed us around Collapsus, but don’t go directly to the project, look at first, it’s almost as good at attending the session.

Welcome to Pine Point is a multimedia portrait of a disappeared Canadian mining settlement by one of its former residents, Michael Simons, and told through the eyes of four high school archetype characters from Simons’ youth.

Sparrow Songs is a project in which filmmaker Alex Jablonski and cinematographer Michael Totten make and exhibit one short documentary per month, every month for one year. Beautiful!

I find all this work so inspiring. The stories are about places, events, people, but the way they are told is so compelling and provocative that I was spellbound. And there’s plenty of material here to mine for ideas about storytelling in museums, using media or not. I saved the best for last: Ze Frank.

There are a lot of links on Ze Frank’s page,, all different projects. It can be kind of overwhelming to look at all the choices, so I picked out a few highlights for you. Ze Frank’s Ted talk will give you a good idea about what he’s up to What ever you do, do not miss the Chill Out Song: I couldn’t find any projects in which Ze Frank worked with a museum, but it’s such a great idea and I’m sure he’d be up for it. Why don’t you ask him?