Jacksonville Audio Tour Makes History

May 24, 2011 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A young, dashing duo in the area is making history out of history. Part blog, part mobile project, their idea is all building up to an audio tour of Jacksonville - made up of community memories and cherished landmarks. A peek into their work, their hopes, and how you can be a part.

Under the Department of Community, the Bureau of Historic Continuity (invented organizations they made up as a "playful guise") "is a socially, historically, and creatively engaged project" happening in Jacksonville right now. A couple, Juliet Hinely and Narooz Soliman, is calling all city citizens to be a part of it. They invite residents to share sites/places that are personally significant to them, for public commemoration of the site in an upcoming audio-tour of Jacksonville. They hope that the stories, "publicly shared, will give visitors an uncommonly in-depth understanding of the city and allow locals to see their everyday landscape in a new light."

Shown here at Art Walk, the pair with the mobile booth they use to promote their project.

Juliet with Folio Weekly President Sam Taylor.
(Folio's article on the project: http://www.folioweekly.com/documents/folio0315wkl010_000.pdf)

Example Interviews:

"Florence Haridan at the corner of Monroe and Laura, right by the parking spot where her whole life changed. Florence detailed the catalystic afternoon her car was broken into and the events, realizations, and perspective shift that followed."

"Jacksonville hip-hop head-honcho Tough Junkie put on his best story-telling voice and gave the rundown on the rise and fall of 1520 North Main Street — the former home of his record shop, Zombie Bikes, and Burro Bags. And a myriad of games, traditions, and local legends that emerged from the community there."

"Powell Mock at the site of his college graduation ceremony as part of UNF’s very first graduating class in 1973."

"Elijah Jamall shared playground stories, including a dare-devil tumble from the top of the play structure, at Lonnie Millar Park way up on Moncreif Avenue. He and his two sisters spent many many afternoons there and the park is named for their late family friend."

Take Part Now:

(From their info flyer)
How it works

1. Sign-up - at a live kiosk or online on their web blog. You fill out a form nominating your site and telling a little about your connection to it.

2. Schedule an interview: After submitting a form, they will arrange a time that fits yours and their schedule to meet on-location at the site. There, they will do the interview and portrait.

3. Tell your story: When you meet, they will do the interview and portrait for the audio-tour and booklet. It will be informal and take up only the time you need to share your story. Basically, they will ask you to talk about the site while standing there - think "if you were a tour-guide, what would you say about this place?" What happened to you at this site and when? Describe the event. Is the place the same now as it was then? And most importantly, what does this place mean to you?

They will record the interview with a digital voice recorder to become part of the website and tour.

"Your landmark will be: included in the audio tour, attributed to you, featured on the project website, pin-pointed on the project map, & highlighted in the project phonebook."

MJ's Interview With The Female Half Of The Pair:

MetroJacksonville: When and how did the idea to do this originate?

Juliet: The idea originated late last summer in 2010. We knew we'd be moving to Jacksonville that fall for the better part of a year, and I really wanted to do a project during that time that would connect me to Jacksonville and hopefully serve the community in some way too. We also really wanted to utilize the monthly downtown Art Walk as a platform for engaging and collaborating with the public. The subject matter for the project grew out of my interests in roadside attractions, local history, and the differing ways people relate to a places as tourists and residents -- ideas I have been exploring in my visual art work over the last few years. Originally we wanted to make new historic markers around the city honoring people's stories and experiences here but that entailed more than we felt we could accomplish in 9 months. The idea for the project to culminate as an audio tour came from a conversation with another friend I collaborate with in New York, Rylee Eterginoso.
Then, over the course of the project, we came across some kindred projects online -- publicly-sourced audio tours happening in Canada and California. At first learning about these projects was disheartening because it felt like our idea wasn't new anymore. And essentially it wasn't. But once we began approaching it from the standpoint of, "hey, we are part of a movement!" we gathered our momentum again. And just because of our day-to-day lives too this project had a lot of stop-and-go, as evident in our sporaticly updated blog ... :)

MJ: What were the steps in initializing it and seeing it through?

J: It all started moving really quickly. We were relocating back to Florida, came up with the idea over a few conversations, acquired a refrigerator box from an appliance outlet store near our house in Southside, turned it into our mobile office, drew up some participation documents, and set up at the old Hayden Burns Library the following week at the November Art Walk and started talking to people.
Initially at the Art Walks or parks and sidewalks where we'd set up, we were gathering contact information for people who were interested and then contacting them after the fact. That worked well for the folks that were really interested, but a lot of people fell out of touch too. Once we started scheduling interviews with people on-sight at the box when we met them, things really began to pick up. We'd set a date and time to meet the storyteller at the site of their story, meet them there, do the interview, record their story, and take their portrait. Those audio and photo files are the raw materials for the project that we are in the process of organizing into the audio tour.

MJ: Is it just the two of you running the whole project? In terms of updating the blog, traveling, doing live appearances?

J: For the most part, it is just the two of running the whole project. We have an intern actually, an amazing go-getter from Douglas Anderson named Zoie Matthew, who has been a great help since we met her back in March. She has accompanied us on a few interviews and has helped out by documenting the Art Walks as well. She enthusiastically contacted us after the article in Folio and wanted to get involved so we said "come along!"

MJ: When do you expect to launch the audio tour and what all will it entail? How many "memories" do you have and how many more "left to go"?

J: We will be releasing the tour  at the June First Wednesday Art Walk in downtown Jacksonville next month. As usual, just look for the yellow cardboard kiosk! The tour will be available online for download that night and we will be giving out download cards from the cardboard kiosk that evening. It will be a series of MP3 files that you can put on your phone or ipod or burn to a CD from your computer and then take the tour, all at once or in installments, at your leisure. There will also be a map that accompanies the download, sort of like a DIY guide-zine. When it is all said and done in June, I think we will have about 25 stories and landmarks. We'd love to have more, hundreds more! But since this sort of work doesn't pay our rent (YET..) we've been creating this into our elusive free time.

MJ: Tell me a little about YOUR experience - has anything in your life changed? What's the response been like?

J: Wow. Where to start.
Orchestrating this project has been one of the most challenging things we've ever done. We have totally been learning how to do this project as we do it, making it up as we go along and troubleshooting along the way.

This project was also our first official big collaboration. We had worked on smaller projects together, printing t-shirts, making paintings, etc. But this was the first time we took on something outside of the studio together.
So many lessons have come out of this project, definitely the biting-off-more-than-you-can-chew lesson. During the project, which quickly made itself evident as something that could occupy the time of a full-time job, we were also both working and applying to graduate school. So we truly had our hands and brains full 24-7. But I also feel like that is the life of an artist -- moving in lots of directions at once to accomplish and experiment and explore and create opportunities and projects. So this was a growing and learning process in that way too. For me, this project has started to shift how I see my role as an artist, perhaps less focused on making objects and more focused on making experiences.

Doing this project has deepened my appreciation for and relationship with Jacksonville in more ways than I can describe. It has also allowed us to meet so many interesting people and see so much more of Jacksonville. And it is such a priviledge to hear peoples stories like this. We are virtually strangers and yet they open up their histories for us to hear! I am so grateful for the enthusiasm and participation that the project has been met with here. I'd like to find a way to keep the project going even after we leave this summer. It could go on forever.

*Juliet closed, mentioning: Also, we still have a few more story telling slots available for the week of May 23-27 if anyone wants to tell a story about a place in Jacksonville. Email us at bureauofhistoriccontinuity@gmail.com or call 540-460-3539



Photos courtesy of Juliet Hinely.

Article by: Sarah Gojekian.