Heard and Not Forgotten

What started out as a "weird art project" in Toronto is providing aural illustrations into a northern New Jersey community's past, and, organizers hope, laying the groundwork for the future.

Untold Stories

To date, there are roughly 20 sites with 30 stories, all offering various glimpses of the city’s history, says Molly Rose Kaufman, a community organizer at HANDS. “We were so lucky to get the kids involved because they were eager to help. Orange is smaller than some of the other Murmur cities, and because of that, we had anticipated it taking a long time to get the stories, but it wasn’t difficult at all.”

Kaufman credits a “love and passion for the city,” but also the personal ties that span generations in the overall city narrative. “We have people who work in Orange, people live in Orange, people who are running the businesses that their grandparents started.”

Micallef says there is a trust factor in the accuracy of the reports, because it is, after all, the narrator’s perception of history: “We’ve never had a problem with someone challenging the narrator’s version of history, but I will say that I’m adamant that we are not a historic plaque project — we’re an oral history.” As such, it is not a tourism tool, and not all of the accounts are necessarily good memories.

Take the construction of Interstate 280, a spur that connects Interstate 80 and the New Jersey Turnpike, for example. When construction for the road began in the early 1960s, the result was a wide throughway right through Orange — a devastating blow for many residents, and the neighborhood. Resident Anthony Monica, who filmed the construction of the interstate, remembers:

“The construction of 280 took quite a toll on the citizens of Orange, and of course it caused a lot of them to move out of town” when the state purchased those homes. “It took quite a chunk of Orange away.”

Murmur organizers hope to retrieve that chunk of lost history. “Other cities have so much of their history told,” HANDS’ Kaufman says. “In Orange, it’s all untold stories.”


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