A Fort Wayne agency has crafted a new tool to help residents learn more about their historic neighborhood.
The Wunderkammer Company, headquartered on the south side of Fort Wayne, has created a new touring program for the southern neighborhood around Fairfield Avenue called SoundWalk.
The gist of the program is this: residents download an app to their phone, and then plug a pair of headphones into their device. While walking around the area, the app will provide running commentary on the sights and important landmarks in the neighborhood.
Wunderkammer’s, Kurt Roembke, explains that the idea for the program came first as a notion to set music to a tour of McCulloch Park, which is also located in that area at 998 Parkview Avenue.
“The idea for the SoundWalk app came to me after being inspired to create audio experiences that are tied to GPS locations,” Roembke said. “My first idea was to compose music for the public park, so that when people walked through the space with the app and headphones, they would get a unique music experience where their physical movements through the park would drive the music’s arrangement and flow.”
“This idea was eventually realized with my collaboration with Metavari (Electronic Music Group) and Middle Waves (the Fort Wayne-based music festival), to create the experience for McCulloch Park.
“Before this, I made an experience with a few members of the Myaamia Center in Oxford, Ohio, that mapped the voices of local Myaamiaki people to the resting place of their leader, Chief Mihsihkinaahkwa at the Little Turtle Place in Lawton Park in Fort Wayne.
“After that, Cornelia Schulz (of Wunderkammer) was inspired to bring a similar format to the Fairfield Corridor with the help of Wunderkammer Company, to bring a layer of historical context to the Fairfield area.”
Boembke noted that a few of the highlights of the tour include Lutheran Park, the site of the old Lutheran Hospital, before it moved to its current location on West Jefferson; the old Packard Piano Company, which once stood where Packard Park now lies; a bed and breakfast that once stood across the street form Lutheran Hospital; and even the park where the Fort Wayne Daisies professional women’s baseball team used to play.
“It’s this type of anecdotal folklore that we’d love to see more of as we add to the experience,” he said.
Roembke even promised some future gems for the tour: “In a future update,” he said, “we’ll be hearing from someone who was present during the demolition of the old Lutheran Hospital, and we’ll share a first-hand account of what it was like to pull it down, even telling of some the things hidden in the walls of the hospital.”
And while the program officially kicked off on April 1 of this year with a few dozen locals trekking the neighborhood, folks will be able to take the tour whenever they like in the future, even allowing residents to contribute their own memories, if they’d like.
“The app is an on-going experience that can be downloaded and listened to whenever you like, for years and years to come,” he explained. “We even designed SoundWalk so that people in the area can contribute their own historical references, and stories to the narrative.
“In the app, there’s a ‘Contribute’ button that will take the user to a contact form on our website. Here, they can tell us what type of information or idea they have that could add new perspectives to SoundWalk’s spoken content, and then we will work with them to get it written and recorded, and eventually released into an upcoming update to the app.”
He said his hopes are that such future updates to the app will include adding music and archived audio from the region’s history.
“On the first update of this kind,” Roembke explained, “expect to hear a vintage radio broadcast about the Fort Wayne Daisies, who played at the ball diamond at Packard Park in the 1930s.”
On the program’s opening night, more than 50 people took the tour on the balmy evening of April 1. “We had more than 60 people interested in attending based on the event analytics, and honestly, this number is fantastic!
“Why not fill the sidewalks? Many people have grown to love this Fairfield Corridor area, and we hope to add a new type of connection to this place via the SoundWalk,” he said.
Wunderkammer Company is a non-profit agency located at 3402 Fairfield Avenue. Its self-described mission is “revitalizing the community through contemporary arts.”
Roembke, a Wunderkammer official, hopes the new program will not only connect the residents to their neighborhood, but everyone who lives here to the entire city – and its rich history.
“We hope this SoundWalk will spark an interest in people to think about Fort Wayne in a new context,” Roembke said, “based on what was here before, and possibly make them think about what their impact on the city could bring for the future.
“We’re aiming to create a map of spoken history that has content undefined by categorical boundaries. By doing so, we don’t exclude histories of those who might be quieted otherwise, or even those types of small, anecdotal stories that are packed full of humanity, but might be deemed too small to included in a more traditional form of historical reference.”