‘Talking Statues’ project brings NYC history to life with a new smartphone app

July 11, 2017

Statue of Frederick Douglass can be found at Central Park North and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, via CityRealty

If statues could talk, what would they say? Thanks to a new project called New York Talking Statues, you will now be able to find out. Beginning tomorrow, July 12, New Yorkers will be able to listen to the voices of 35 statues across the city through a smartphone app (h/t Untapped Cities). Users will be able to scan the QR code found on a sign next to each statue or type in the web address into the web browser. The team behind the project chose the statues by looking at their historical significance to the city, especially those with a special tie to immigrant communities as well as artists who have contributed directly to the city.

talking statues, NYC, talking statues project
Photo courtesy of Talking Statues New York

The Talking Statues project was first created by filmmaker David Peter Fox in Copenhagen after taking his children to the city’s King’s Garden. Seeing the statues in the park sparked his curiosity about the history behind the statues, so Fox had an idea to give voices to the iconic pieces of art. The first talking statue in the world was of Hans Christian Andersen in Copenhagen. After the project was met with success, it spread to Helsinki, London, San Diego, Berlin, Chicago and now New York.

The only thing needed to dive into the statue’s history is internet access and a smartphone or tablet. Once you scan the QR code from the plaque associated with the statue, this activates the system and you will receive a phone call from the statue, which will relay a pre-recorded 90-second message. The talking statues bring public art into another dimension, allowing those passing by them to connect the statue to the city’s rich history.

On July 12, statues will start talking outside of the New York Historical Society, with featured “live” performances by William Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Giovanni da Verrazzano and Frederick Douglass out front. Plus, Fox will be speaking, as well as Margi Hofer, director of the museum, and Jonathan Kuhn, the director of Art and Antiquities for NYC Parks Department.

Besides English, the statues will be able to speak in Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Italian Norwegian, Spanish and Greek, depending on which historical figure calls. In a statement, Fox said: “I want to celebrate diversity with the project by making the statues speak many languages.”

[Via Untapped Cities]


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