Sound Walking Around Old Town: an audio tour

artwork by Myka Jones Design

by Janna Graham

When I began exploring Yellowknife as a newcomer, the Old Town was like a wild treasure hunt that might unearth artifacts at every corner. Visually, there was a lot to take in. Then, as I came to know people in town, the narrative of the town’s beginnings fascinated me. The stories of bootleggers, prospectors, trappers, fishermen, woodcutters, bush pilots and adventure seekers seemed an integral part of the town’s frontier spirit – worth preserving. It also struck me that it’s still possible to go for a walk in the Old Town and locate places and pieces from the early days.

So, this summer I set out to find a few guides – Yellowknifers with a history in the Old Town – to talk about the town as they know it. I recorded a series of interviews and also the sounds of neighborhoods. The resulting mix of stories, ambients sounds and archival audio is The Old Town Soundwalk. Basically, it’s an audio walking tour winding though Willow Flats, the Woodyard, the Government Dock, up Pilot’s Monument and down along Back Bay.

For me, sound and oral history are one way of connecting to the roots of a place. And yet, history only goes so far. Getting to know a place on one’s own, one neighborhood at a time, is a powerful experience. Something is always happening in the Old Town – you just need to show up.

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Wanna go for a walk?

The Old Town Soundwalk is available online and can be done anytime. Here’s how it works:

Pick up a map around town or download a PDF from the Sound Walk site at oldtownsoundwalk.ca. You can pick up physical maps at Down to Earth Gallery, the Visitor’s Centre and a few other locations, or you can cut out the map on this page.

Go to oldtownsoundwalk.ca and download the audio clips (there are seven in total) to an MP3 device. If you have a smart phone, you can keep the web page open as you walk and stream them as you go.

If possible, the tour is intended to be heard without headphones so you can also hear what’s happening around you during the walk.

To start, go to the corner of School Draw and Brock Drive. Play audio clip #1 from Willow Flats, and follow the directions. The entire tour takes roughly 80 minutes, start to finish, and you can do it in sections, if you don’t have time to do the whole thing.

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