Stories of Juneau’s past will come to life for residents and visitors alike thanks to the new Juneau Voices Audio Walk, which debuted downtown Thursday evening. The City and Borough of Juneau commissioned the project.
After many years of planning and collecting stories, the series is now available to help people learn more about the city’s past.
“When you think about the history of Juneau, we know there were a couple of smokehouses and some gardens in the Gold Creek area. But the history that our tourists hear and our students learn in the schools begins with the mining history,” said Lillian Petershoare, a Juneau resident and artist facilitator on the project team that researched, wrote and produced the series.
“It’s good to know that people lived here before the mining,” she continued. “The Tlingits called the downtown area ‘the place that has everything.’ I think that’s a wonderful phrase and description.”
In a phone interview Friday, Petershoare said one of the project’s goals was to seek out and lift up lesser-known stories about the people who have called Juneau home.
Designed as a mobile-phone-based audio walking tour through the downtown area, listeners can hear a diverse collection of stories ranging from experiences growing up in the Juneau Indian Village to learning about the experiences of Stuart Sliter, née Johnson, who served as the very first Miss Alaska at the dawn of Alaskan statehood.
“The Juneau Voices Audio Walk is a series of location-specific, place-based sound installations featuring stories and memories told by Juneau residents who lived them,” the City and Borough of Juneau said in a news release. “The sound installations are linked to 11 of the new downtown wayfinding and interpretive elements signs through QR codes. Experienced as a sequential journey, the sound installations add up to a walk through the past with a spotlight on untold histories from Dzantikʼihéeni, Juneau.”
The idea for the project was born about five years ago after a local performance about the Juneau Indian Village, said Lisa EaganLagerquist, a CBJ engineering project manager who oversaw the project for the city, in a phone interview Friday morning.
Once the project was approved and funding secured, work included community outreach, conducting interviews with storytellers, developing scripts, creating a process to determine which stories to include in the series and recording the stories. Sound engineers added a rich layer of sound to each recording to add texture and depth to the recordings.
“It was a collaborative effort,” Eagan Lagerquist said, noting that several elements had to come together to make the project work.
EaganLagerquist said that she hopes the series leads people to further exploration about the history of Juneau.
“It was created because we want visitors to get to know more about Juneau, EaganLagerquist said. “It’s for visitors and locals and people who have lived here their whole lives. We want to pique interest, and for people to say, maybe I’ll go to the city museum. Or, “now I’m curious, I’ve never looked at this from that angle before,” she said.
A connection to ancestors
While researching stories for project scripts last January, Petershoare happened across a document Senator Bob Bartlett shared with the U.S. Senate about land rights in the Juneau Indian Village, where Petershoare grew up. As she read the record, she realized that Bartlett had read the proclamation on the Senate floor in Washington D.C., precisely 58 years earlier on Jan.14, 1962.
“I was so moved,” she said in a phone interview with the Empire this week. “The Tlingit people believe we are connected to our ancestors, and on that day, I believe my ancestors were guiding me to that document. I believe the adults who signed that resolution in 1962 joined me to write their story.”
Know and Go
Juneau voices is available anytime and is best enjoyed as a walking tour. You do need a mobile phone to access the audio clips.
As part of the kick-off, Juneau Parks and Recreation is sponsoring a Juneau Voices Matching Game. This do-it-yourself activity will take families through downtown Juneau and allow them to experience the diverse stories.
To play, print out a Matching Game form, go to the various signs, listen to the stories, and match the storytellers to a story theme.
Bring a completed Matching Game form to either the Juneau-Douglas City Museum or the Downtown Library to get a limited edition Juneau Voices bookmark while supplies last.
•Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-308-4891.