Donations lead to 'Brattleboro Words Trail'

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BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Words Project, backed by the National Endowment for the Humanities, has distributed state of the art digital recording sets to schools and the Brooks Memorial Library as part of its first year of community research and audio-gathering for the 'Brattleboro Words Trail' — self-guided digital and physical walking, biking and driving audio tours of important sites in our area's storied past.

Equipment donations were made possible by Brattleboro Words Project Sponsor Guilford Sound, whose founder and chief engineer, Dave Syder, designed the sets. Snyder also worked with local builder Dave Ross to customize a sound-insulated 'Story Booth' at Brooks Memorial Library for the use of community Research Leaders and the public at large who can check out equipment or use it in the booth. A step-by-step equipment user guide is also available at the library and on the Project website.

Nine area schools, including the Guilford School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, the Chesterfield School in New Hampshire, representing 14 classrooms, have received or are in the process of receiving a digital audio recording set. Sets are used to record the connections, the stories and writings students find as they research particular places in our community. Citizen Research Leaders can use the library equipment and Story Booth to create audio content around sites pegged to walking, biking and driving maps. All participants are building 21st-century skills as they engage the history of places we share.

"Brooks Memorial Library is pleased to make this incredible resource available to patrons," Brooks Library Director Starr LaTronica said. "The Words Project brings research, books and history together with technology in an engaging way, especially for patrons seeking to develop their artistic, academic and literary endeavors. This is a wonderful opportunity for people to expand their technological literacy."

"People will be able to download maps from our website and listen to audio in dozens of different places," said Project Technical Director Reg Martell. He works with Brattleboro Area Middle School teacher Joe Rivers, a pioneer in using podcasting with social studies students who have made 175 podcasts chronicling Brattleboro area history for the Brattleboro Historical Society website. The Project helps spread this successful learning and community mapping skills to other schools. The Project also gathers and preserves imagery from primary sources to enliven the Brattleboro Words Trail website — the digitization of our humanities legacy.

"Audio is an important tool to explore spatial storytelling and cultivate a sense of place, with many different voices and approaches contributing to a multilayered map of the Brattleboro area" William Edelglass, Professor of Philosophy and Environmental Studies at Marlboro College and the Project's Principal Scholar, said. The equipment is also being used by two Project-inspired, podcast-making classes at Marlboro College.

The research and mapping has a strong social corollary. "The whole Project entails building new relationships around a shared vision for a creative product (the Brattleboro Words Trail) that will capture and thematically weave together some special qualities about our home," Project Director Lissa Weinmann said, adding that the trails begin in Brattleboro as the hub but extend beyond in concentric circles to include an incredible array of towns, personalities and 'firsts' explored in the mapping. "We need many peoples' talents and input to get there," Weinmann said, reminding people to contact brattleborowords@gmail.com if they would like to help as a Research Leader, sponsor, volunteer or intern. Part-time paid positions are also available.

The Peoples, Places and History of Words in Brattleboro Vermont (Brattleboro Words Project) is a multi-year collaboration of the Brattleboro Historical Society, Brattleboro Literary Festival, Brooks Memorial Library, Write Action, and Marlboro College. Backed by local support and a dollar-for-dollar National Endowment for the Humanities' 'Creating Humanities Communities' matching grant, the Project is building the Brattleboro Words Trail, an audio mapping of our storied past that will lead listeners on walking, biking, and driving tours beginning in Brattleboro. The Project also includes work toward a book on Brattleboro's print and publishing history, monthly public Roundtable Discussions, schools/teacher/community support and programming, as well as exhibitions and other events. For more information visit brattleborowords.org.

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