Augmented Avenue: Memories of Lancaster

Augmented Avenue: Memories of Lancaster was a collaborative art project generated by students from Neighborhood Narratives that offered visitors a new way to experience the Lancaster Avenue neighborhood. Drexel University students worked in partnership with members of the community who narrated their stories and memories, together co-authoring a dynamic portrait of local history. Each student interpreted that experience and created a photo and sound collage via the Zooburst Augmented Reality platform. These mobile experiences were available through the smartphone, and on display from September 30 to October 29, 2011 as part of the LOOK! Show sponsored by the City of Philadelphia’s “ReStore Corridors Through Art” program.

Each narrated memory of place is tied to a corresponding location on Lancaster Avenue, where the recollections and anecdotes are invisibly layered into these locations and accessed using posters and maps with phone-readable codes. The ephemeral discoveries and re-memories that take place in these walks generate opportunities for unexpected encounters with familiar places and reveal the potential for artistic engagement in a new participatory medium.  

Cross/Walks: Weaving Fabric Row

A special project generated by Neighborhood Narratives was Cross/Walks: Weaving Fabric Row, which constructed a portrait composed of interviews with merchants and personalities from the neighborhood, which had site-specific delivery via cell phone on Fabric Row (4th Street between Bainbridge and Catherine) in Philadelphia. The project was sponsored by the Gershman Y, Borowski Galleries, and curated by Miriam Seidel.

From the audio and visual elements gathered on Fabric Row, an installation was composed in the gallery that combined the remote/local connection in an interactive audio component, along with a web site. The stories were accessible by cell phone in the location where they were told, and the public could add their own contributions from the street; or remote locations via the web. Although the stories were available on the web, the project’s dynamic achieved more resonance when heard on Fabric Row, while walking in the place that was narrated.

Merchants on Fabric Row, once a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, are now ethnically diverse, but share the desire to preserve the sense of place that Fabric Row has acquired through generations. “Cross/Walks demonstrates that both the art and the subject are in transition” (Dianna Marder, 2007). The emergence of online shopping and jumbo stores has heralded the demise of small, independent stores, like the ones on Fabric Row. The unique thing about narrative delivered over the cell phone is that it can preserve and distribute a sense of one place to everywhere.

Reference: Marder, Dianna. June 14, 2007. The Philadelphia Inquirer, year 179, No. 14.  


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