Citizens’ recorded oral histories to play in downtown La Crosse
On April 12, La Crosse’s downtown will come alive with the memories of local citizens who worked, lived and shopped on the streets.
As part of the Spring Fling Downtown Mainstreet Inc. event, UW-L Assistant History Professor Ariel Beaujot will launch the “Hear, Here” project.
Signs at downtown locations will be linked to a mobile phone system where people can hear the collected stories of everyday people. These stories contribute to the larger history of the community, notes Beaujot.
Stories range from the aftermath of a downtown fight to homelessness in La Crosse.
Hear some of the voices:
- Elmer Peterson talks about creating the sculpture of lacrosse players to honor the history of the area. The sculpture is now prominently displayed on the north side of La Crosse at the entrance of the city.
- Maureen Freedland discusses agreeing to be a plaintiff in the case against the Ten Commandments Monument in a city park.
- UW-L History Professor Victor Macías-González talks about the safety of going to gay bars in La Crosse after moving to the city in 2000.
Other stories that will be part of the downtown system can be heard on the Hear Here project website.
“It is very exciting to see this project come together after two years of planning and grant writing,” says Beaujot.
Beaujot is particularly proud of her students in a new Public and Policy History major emphasis who did a lot of the legwork behind the project. Students in a fall 2014 course collected, recorded and edited stories about downtown La Crosse’s past and present.
Students in a spring semester course are launching the project from technology to public relations. At the signs, people may call a toll-free number from their mobile phones (or listen online) to first-person accounts of these places. After listening to a recollection, visitors can add their own stories.
Beaujot has made a special effort to reach out to historically underrepresented groups in the community such as homeless, the Ho Chunk Nation, Hmong and African Americans to contribute their stories so the community can understand the perspective of all citizens.
The project will run until 2020.
“We would like for it to evolve and change over time, just as our community does and has,” she says. “This is the reason why it is so important for there to be a way (via phone or the website) for the community to keep contributing their stories. We are in an evolving community. History is what happened 100 years ago, but it is also what happened yesterday.”