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Quake stories come to life with new audio walk

A new digital audio experience launching next week will connect powerful quake memories to physical places in the city – to provide residents and visitors with a unique opportunity to understand the pain and resilience and human impact of the Canterbury Earthquakes.

“I was on the fifth floor of the Forsyth Barr building. We discovered that the stairwells were down… we realised that we have to get ourselves out of here. The guys were trying to smash this plate-glass window with a coat rack. I remember thinking when I first looked out the window, I’m not going out there.”

The Earthquake Stories Walk, developed by Our Stories Project Trust with the support of the Arts Digital Lab, maps memories of the February 22, 2011 earthquake throughout the central city. The 30-minute walk starts at Quake City museum on Durham Street and finishes at the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial. It includes first-person stories from more than 30 people. Visitors will be able to listen to the audio through a smartphone web app.

This project has been developed using content from the CEISMIC Canterbury Earthquakes Digital Archive.  UC Arts Digital Lab manager Kaspar Middendorf says, “The Lab is excited to be a part of this project. We built CEISMIC so that the stories of the Christchurch earthquakes wouldn’t be forgotten, and this audio trail brings those stories to life.”

The CEISMIC archive was created to preserve the knowledge, memories and experiences of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. CEISMIC is led by Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury and contains over 150,000 photographs, videos, stories and other material gathered by a consortium of leading New Zealand cultural and educational institutions. This includes hundreds of interviews recorded by the UC QuakeBox and QuakeBox Take 2 projects.

Our Stories Project is a charitable trust with a mission to connect communities through storytelling and make local history accessible. Director Kris Herbert says the project’s aim is to bring the CEISMIC archive to life by connecting the stories to places.

“This project takes the amazing oral history archive held by CEISMIC and literally brings it to the streets where it can be shared and understood in context.”

She says the walk has been designed for both residents and locals. “Since the borders reopened last year, we’ve seen more visitors to our city who are interested in the story of the earthquakes. I hope this will be a tool in the process of healing and in reconciling the pre-quake city with the post-quake city we live in today. For many people, these still exist as separate places in the mind. The thread that connects them is our stories.”

“Our city was shaped by this event and I would like us never to forget the human side to the earthquakes – the trauma but also the resilience and compassion of the people of Ōtautahi Christchurch.”

The Earthquake Stories Walk will launch on Wednesday to coincide with the 12th anniversary of the February 22 earthquake.