[murmur] is a
documentary oral history project that records stories
and memories told about specific geographic locations. We collect and
make accessible people's personal histories and anecdotes about the
places in their neighborhoods that are important to them. In each of
these locations we install a [murmur] sign with a telephone number on it
that anyone can call with a mobile phone to listen to that story while
standing in that exact spot, and engaging in the physical experience of
being right where the story takes place. Some stories suggest that the
listener walk around, following a certain path through a place, while
others allow a person to wander with both their feet and their gaze.
The stories we record range from personal recollections to more
"historic" stories, or sometimes both — but always are told from a
personal point of view, as if the storyteller is just out for a stroll
and was casually talking about their neighbourhood to a friend.
It's history from the ground up, told by the voices that are often
overlooked when the stories of cities are told. We know about the
skyscrapers, sports stadiums and landmarks, but [murmur] looks for the
intimate, neighbourhood-level voices that tell the day-to-day stories
that make up a city. The smallest, greyest or most nondescript building
can be transformed by the stories that live in it. Once heard, these
stories can change the way people think about that place and the city at
All our stories are available on the [murmur] website, but their
details truly come alive as the listener walks through, around, and into
the narrative. By engaging with [murmur], people develop a new intimacy
with places, and "history" acquires a multitude of new voices. The
physical experience of hearing a story in its actual setting — of
hearing the walls talk — brings uncommon knowledge to common space, and
brings people closer to the real histories that make up their world.
The stories are as personal as the relationship people have with the
spaces they inhabit. Secret histories are unearthed, private truths
unveiled and tales as diverse as the city itself are discovered and
shared. All members of a community are encouraged to participate and
contribute, so that the "voice" of [murmur] reflects the diverse voices of the
are the stories that make up the city's identity, but they're kept
inside of the heads of the people who live here. [murmur] brings that
important archive out onto the streets, for all to hear and experience,
and is always looking for new stories to add to its existing locations.
[murmur] was first established in Toronto's Kensington Market in
2003. That same year projects were launched in Vancouver's Chinatown and
along St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal, and over the past few years
[murmur] has grown and expanded across other neighbourhoods in Toronto, Calgary, and San Jose, California.
[murmur] Edinburgh launched in Leith in January 2007, and [murmur] Dublin Docklands launched in May 2007. [murmur] Australia launched in Geelong in February 2009.
[murmur] was initially developed with the assistance of the CFC Media Lab, Toronto.