Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Amazing Audio Tours for Intrepid Urban Explorers

 by Danielle Maestretti


Tags: Arts, oral history, audio tours, urban experience, Murmur project, Shelterforce, Danielle Maestretti,

Murmur TorontoA group of high school students in Orange, New Jersey, have put together a fascinating audio tour of their town, with a project that weaves citizens’ stories about seemingly ordinary places right into the fabric of the city. When you walk around Orange, Shelterforce reports, you see bright green ear-shaped signs calling attention to nontraditional landmarks—a hospital, a freeway overpass, a funeral home, a café—and you can use your cell phone to access oral histories of these places.

The students’ work is part of the larger “Murmur” project, wherein residents of a handful of cities—Montreal, Edinburgh, São Paulo, Toronto, and a few others—have installed museum-like audio tours to enrich the urban experience. “The stories reflect personal history: windows into the individual experiences of residents, rather than a rigid history of the area,” Shelterforce notes. Even from the remote distance of the project’s interactive website, the stories are powerful and, due to their brevity and down-to-earth nature, a bit addictive: I dare you to listen to just one.

Anthony Monica, looking out over the massive I-280 freeway, recalls that the interstate’s construction, which broke ground when he was a kid, “took quite a chunk of Orange away.” The brother-and-sister proprietors of Serrani’s Bakery, an Orange staple since their father opened it in 1948, explain that they’re still using the same “very old and very delicious” bread recipes their father brought back from Italy—for baguettes and stone-ground wheat loaves—but they’ve broadened as the town has grown more multicultural. “We have a large, wonderful, wonderful Ethiopian community,” Jean Serrani says, who buy what she describes as a traditional Ethiopian bread (if it’s injera, and I’m guessing it is, I just love the image of an old-school Italian bakery selling the large spongy rounds). Serrani’s, she says proudly, “has now become not only an Italian bakery, but, we feel, an international bakery.”

Source: Shelterforce

Image by Andrew Currie, licensed under Creative Commons.