“A Place and its Story” – to discover the stories in your surroundings

The European Grundtvig project “A Place and its Story” is a project between 7 European countries (Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Germany, Belgium and Ireland) and focuses on applied heritage, adult learning for marginalized groups. Each country chooses the group to work with.

In Finland the Ostrobothnian Children’s Culture Network BARK focuses on young immigrants and their process to adapt to the new home country. In the city of Kristinestad there was already a project aiming at integrating new citizens through education, so we teamed up. After some discussions we discovered that there were several aspects of the place and its story that the migrants wanted to know: the history of Finland, the history of Kristinestad and Finnish traditions, like dances, music and food.

The story of a place can be told in many ways and from many angles. We kicked off with a Time Travel to 1812. This was a time when Kristinestad had a busy harbor and many foreigners were coming and going. At the same time, the country had just left Sweden after 700 years, becoming autonomy under Russia. What do we think of all the new people? How will the new situation be for us under Russia? Will the laws change? Do we have to learn a new language? These are questions many of the new immigrants are facing today.

Part two was an interactive workshop, where we presented the history of Finland since 1809. We used short films, oral history and music. We saw films from the 1900s and compared to the situation in their own countries. We told stories and sang songs. We explored local traditions, folkdances, weddings and more. And to celebrate it all, we had a party with the local community, where we danced traditional dances from all the different cultures and got to know each other!

Because many didn’t have good language skills at first, the Time Travel was a way to introduce traditions and history through practical activities. Every one could take part and we wanted it to be an including experience. As the language skills grew, it was natural to refer to what we had experienced. The next part of the project will be when both immigrants and locals tell their stories and we will make the stories into a small film.

Annina Ylikoski, Museum educator, The Ostrobothnian Children’s Culture Network BARK