“A good museum is more than a collection of things, more than a box of stuff, a great museum is a collection of stories. The root of the word, muse, clearly implies that a museum is the place where the muses live. The better job your museum does telling its story the more succesful you will be. When visitors are more engaged they will find meaning, then they are more likely to come back and they are more likely to tell their friends of the great stories they found. The success of your museum is dependent on how well you tell your story.” Brian “Fox” Ellis
From leading ‘A storyteller’s tour of Art History’ at the Louvre in Paris to assisting the curator of an exhibit on The Oregon Trail for the Museum of Nebraska Art, much of the work Fox has done in the past twenty years, has been within the halls of museums.
From the simple task of presenting a performance at the opening of new exhibit to a more complete series of performances, workshops for docents, writing signage and lesson plans, then presenting a special program at a fund raising evening to honor donors, Fox is eager to help your museum put together a memorable experience for museum visitors. Please Contact Fox to discuss ways he may add an extra layer of vitality to your next project. One of the most requested workshops he has presented at dozens of museums helps docent use storytelling to engage visitors in making meaning from the exhibit:
The Art of Story Telling and Interpretation – Geared towards museum docents, teachers, and naturalists, this two-hour intensive workshop begins with basic theatre games and improvisation to warm up our skills and instill within us the idea that we already know how to tell a tale or two. We will then explore ‘tales along the trail’ interpretive telling and the process of translating text to performance material, highlighting the idea that this is an engaging dialogue, a conversation with the art and the audience. In the second hour we will tour the exhibit with stories and immerse ourselves in the format for creating memorable programs with storytelling as the foundation of all great interpretation. Though we will focus on the current exhibit, the skills learned can be used to interpret any future exhibit.
Because every project is custom tailored to meet your needs it is easier to talk about recent projects and hope this inspires you to dream up a few new ideas:
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has hired Fox to write a book on “Storytelling in the Museum Setting.” He then presented a series of four docent training programs to give volunteers the knowledge base, skills and confidence to engage visitors in a more meaningful dialogue. He was also invited to participate in an in-depth teacher training program working with The Library of Congress to help teachers develop lesson plans to help students plug-in to the internet resources at both institutions. Fox also presents regular public programs on Lincoln the Lawyer, Lincoln’s Youth, and The Civil War.
The Field Museum commissioned Fox to be Charles Darwin for the press junket and opening weekend of the exhibit to celebrate the Bicentennial of Darwin’s birth. He was invited back as Darwin for the American Academy for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Chicago. He has also presented day-long teacher training workshops in conjunction with YoYo Ma’s Silk Road tour, exploring relationships between economic and cultural trade routes. For the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Fox created a scavenger hunt to view the collection through the eyes of the Corps of Discovery, created several hands-on experiments and lesson plans within a trunk teachers could check out, and then presented a series of workshops and public performances to celebrate the modern corps of discovery. He has also presented programs as part of the ‘Dozin with Dinos’ overnight program and is a frequent guest speaker when The Field Museum hosts special events.
The Museum of Nebraska Art has invited Fox to be a featured speaker several years in a row when they host Crane Festival events. He has also helped to curate, choose the art, write the signage and develop on-line lesson plans for two exhibits, The Oregon Trail and Animal Kingdom.
When The Figge Museum in Davenport, Iowa partnered with the Butterworth Center to create an exhibit of the Bien Edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America they invited Fox to present a total of 26 performances in local schools to promote the exhibition. He also gave three distinct performances in the Museum, one on his life story, one on the creation of the art, and one on the ornithological biographies. Then Fox lead two tours of the exhibit.
John James Audubon State Park in Henderson, Kentucky created an exhibit of Audubon’s art and artifacts that toured America for several years. Most of the museums hired Fox for performances and many invited him to present a multiple day mini-residency in which he visited schools, lead workshops for teachers and museum docents, wined and dined sponsors, lead birding hikes around the museum and gallery tours as John James Audubon. He even received a small grant to create a film of the tour to help promote the exhibition:
Please Contact Fox to discuss your next project and how he can help. Here is a short video of Fox leading a museum tour as Audubon, discussing art, history, and ornithology:
Three sample signs.