The early stages of Zoom In On Heritage were characterized by unpredictability about what kind of reflections and perceptions the group of women – who had different backgrounds – would have about the collections that mostly represent the culture and history of Finland during the past centuries.
For this reason, we focused our first task to find an approach that would have helped us to understand what kind of thoughts or ideas of our collections would have brought to their minds…
During one of the first workshops we divided the group into two parts: people from the first part selected photos, and people from the second part put a photo upon the wall giving it a name. Our doubts were already overcome since many of the selected photos showed sceneries and lives in Finland 100 years or decades before us, demonstrating that the message and symbols of the photos go beyond the subject depicted.
A further episode helped us to create an emotional engagement. In the group there were women from various backgrounds and also Finnish women as volunteers. Some told their short story connected with their values (for instance related to the public library system), others talked about small observations such as coffee or tea missing in the empty cups depicted in some photographs, and some others shared personal memories evoked by the pictures of farm animals such as funny anecdotes about milking goats… These latter stories were a mixed of feelings, including the sadness of having lost that life they had had in their past.
When we moved to another exercise examining other photos, the discussion and sharing continued spontaneously for a long time, with very personal themes, memories and values.
In this way the pictures, even if they did not depict something strictly related to the lives of the participants, were a very powerful mean in creating a space for everybody to share and interact in the capacity and level they wanted. Pictures made communication easier for those who did not have very good language skill and, above all, helped the participants to share things that they wanted to tell but they did not find the space to do it.