Call to Action: Voices

26 March 2012


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The Map Room at IWM Churchill Museum, Cabinet War Rooms - listen to their excellent audio trail as you explore these underground military headquarters. Copyright © Imperial War Museum.The Map Room at IWM Churchill Museum, Cabinet War Rooms - listen to their excellent audio trail as you explore these underground military headquarters. Copyright © Imperial War Museum.

It’s the fifth and last week of our ‘Sights and Sounds’ theme on the blog, with April’s blog posts taking on a more Spring-like quality, inspired by the sunny weather and the first flowers bursting out of the ground.  We finish this month’s theme with Voices – those that guide, entertain and move us at sites across the UK. Voices can be very evocative, especially when telling the stories of the past.

Although I’m not usually a fan of audio trails at heritage sites and museums, my recent visit to the Churchill War Rooms was made all the more interesting because of its audio guide, which leads you down the corridors of these underground World War II headquarters. The simplicity and directness of the audio trail was key to conveying the story of this unique underground space, and I missed this guiding voice in the second part of the museum, which is dedicated to Churchill’s life and personality, but left me feeling out-of-sorts amongst the flashy displays and interactive games.

Change Alley, City of London. One of the sites of Susan Philipsz’s ‘Surround Me’ sound installation. Photography by Matt Brown.

One voice-related project that I was sad to miss a few years ago was Susan Philipsz’s sound installation SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London, set in the streets of the City of London. Filling the weekend silence of an area that is usually buzzing with noise and activity on weekdays, Philipsz’s voice and other sounds were played to empty streets, narrow alleyways, and the banks of the River Thames. I can imagine that it was both magical and ghostly, with voices following you down the street or stopping you in your tracks as your explored an area steeped in history (with its Elizabethan heritage being of particular interest to Philipsz), but now renowned as a financial powerhouse.

We hope the projects and stories we feature in the coming days will inspire you to discover another side of your surroundings through voices – if you have any uplifting audio experiences you’d like to share, tell us about them here on the blog, on Facebook and Twitter (@DiscoverDP).

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