Experience Little-Known St. Louis History with Un(HEARD)OfSTL

 In Culture, Feature

St. Louis is rich in history—every school kid knows the story of Lewis & Clark, right? But there are many lesser-known events that have occurred here that have helped shape the region and the nation, and Un(HEARD)OfSTL is designed to bring these tales to life.

“Un(HEARD)Of STL is a free interactive audio map that explores St. Louis’ diverse history through cinematic audio stories,” says creator Adam Frick-Verdine.

The project, which launched June 1, is a website that has an interactive map with various locations of historical significance highlighted. Users out and about Downtown can access the site, see what point is nearby and hear a fully scripted dramatic account of what transpired there. The stories are available as a podcast stream as well. The goal is to be more entertaining than didactic and to be accessible and engaging for a variety of people.

“The idea is you can stand right where history happened and hear from the people who made it happen,” Frick-Verdine says. “There’s no narrator; no one is telling you what happened. You get immersed in a moment of history. They’re basically short films for your ears.”

Production on the first 10 Un(HEARD)OfSTL episodes, which required the work of a team of 50 artists and technicians, began in the fall of 2018. Each episode focuses on lesser-known historical events, from lunch-counter protests against segregation at Stix Baer & Fuller in 1944 to chronicling an Osage family dealing with the encroachment of white settlers in 1789. All but one of the episodes are presented as dramas—”The Politics of Protest with Percy Green” is an interview with one of the activists who climbed the Gateway Arch in 1964 to protest a lack of jobs for black workers.

Frick-Verdine, who has worked in the audio field in film and television for years, got the idea for Un(HEARD)OfSTL while visiting various sites around town with his daughters.

“When my two oldest daughters were little, I remember being at the zoo and saying, ‘Oh, here’s the lion, but it’s sleeping; here’s the elephant, but it’s back in the corner,’ and you didn’t get to hear the sounds,” he said. “At that moment I thought, ‘There’s an opportunity to bring a space to life.’ At the same time I was doing some work with the Magic House and the National Blues Museum and starting to explore how sound could be interactive and bring a space to life.”

He also realized how often people spend killing time before a game or other events Downtown, standing where important historical moments transpired.

Un(HEARD)OfSTL has 1,000 users so far, and Frick-Verdine says this fall he’ll start looking at possibilities for the next batch of stories. To get a taste of the stories, click on the four teasers below.

Un(HEARD)OfSTL is currently fiscally sponsored by Midwest Artist Project Services (MAPS), by grants from the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Humanities Council and by private donors. The project also has partnerships with KDHX, Shock City Studios and STL Style.

Featured image courtesy of Adam Frick-Verdine.

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