YCI Transforms Historic Phone Booth into Storytelling Kiosk

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Mar 22, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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YCI Transforms Historic Phone Booth into Storytelling Kiosk

Phone booth repurposed by Adam Wiltgen installed at Lanesboro Museum, Minnesota The Phone Booth installed outside the Lanesboro Museum in Lanesboro, Minnesota

A phone booth repurposed by a YCI has given residents in Lanesboro, Minnesota, the chance to have their story heard.

Adam Wiltgen, who attended the third session of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, restored the beloved landmark and donated it to the Lanesboro Museum in December 2016.

The phone booth, which was decommissioned by Acentek, Inc., now acts as an interactive storytelling and story collecting exhibit.

Visitors can listen to local stories installed in the phone booth and contribute their own by leaving a voicemail message on a dedicated telephone number.

Wiltgen received funding for the hardware, equipment and interpretive signage for the project through a grant from Salzburg Global made possible by the Kresge Foundation. He received a follow-on grant after attending the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, one which was given for a new project that had a cross-sector approach and gave back to the community.

Adam Wiltgen, program director at Lanesboro Arts, said, “I immediately thought of the Lanesboro Phone Booth when this opportunity arose. It is such a charming historical asset and repurposing it as a storytelling exhibit is a great way to amplify the amazing work the museum has been doing preserving our history and collecting stories from all walks of life.”

Nine stories were collected for an open house and story celebration which took place in October last year. Stories included Glen Nyenhuis’s experience hunting and riding the caboose in Lanesboro, Bonita Underbakke’s memories fishing as a child at Watson Creek, Ann Madland’s reflections on living and working as an artist in Lanesboro, LaVonne Draper’s recollection of a trick played while tending bar, an e-mail message David Hennessey wrote in the aftermath of the 2002 Lanesboro fire, Blake Coleman’s memory of visiting Lanesboro for the first time, Betty Michaud’s tale of being surprised while swimming alone, Yvonne Nyenhuis’s anecdotes about the White Front Café, and Duane & Melissa Benson’s adventure swimming with horses.  

These stories were collected during storytelling projects organized by Lanesboro Museum. Story circles were conducted in partnership with the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibition in 2016. Story circles were also held in 2017 for the Be Here: Main Street initiative, a pilot project developed between the MuseWeb Foundation and the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street program.

Since this event, the phone booth has continued to receive a positive reaction. Wiltgen said, “The Museum is changing out the stories regularly and adding new ones. Folks are using the voicemail box to leave messages and photos of the phone booth continue to pop up on social media. I'm looking forward to seeing how visitors interact with the phone booth this year during the high season. I love the cross-cultural and inter-generational appeal of the phone booth as well.”

For more information about the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, please click here.