Frozen in a Moment: The Oakland Tribune Tower Audio Tour

Frozen in a Moment: The Oakland Tribune Tower Audio Tour 

The goal and aim of this interpretive plan is to convey the aura and the feelings (through audio particularly but also through sight, narrative, and even touch) to the visitor of what it might have been like to take a walk through the Tribune Tower at the peak of The Oakland Tribune’s occupation of the Tower. This specific era in history, reflective and relevant to the Tower’s primary use throughout its lifetime, is chosen based on an evaluation of what the most interesting time period would have been to be inside of the Tower in order that the visitor get the most satisfying experience on the tour. The era that I would like to freeze the Tower in for the audio tour is the 1950s, when The Oakland Tribune became Oakland’s primary news source. Having the audio tour take place during this period in the Tower’s history would showcase the Tower at its peak as The Oakland Tribune was climbing the news podium in the City of Oakland and debatably the Bay Area at the time.

Audio Tour Example

The audio tour will begin with the visitors arriving at the site and putting a pair of headphones on connected to an audio device. This audio device will play audio guiding the visitors around the building to different places all the while narrating relevant history about the particular location that they are in.  It would say things like “Go through the hallway adjacent to the doorway and proceed to the far corner of the room that you will then be standing in”. This will tell visitors exactly where to go and would allow the tour to be taken correctly in accordance with how the area is set up. When the visitor arrives at the instructed location, the device will say something like “Look at the desk with the typewriter on it. This desk belonged to John Peterson who was a writer for the…..”. There will also be different narrators who would come on at particular times and tell their own oral histories relative to the spot the visitor would be standing in. The audio device will be the main tool on the tour and will allow each visitor to learn about the site individually without an outside bias influencing their thought process. The tour  will take them throughout the building from the ground floor where the newsroom used to be all the way up to the top of the Tower stopping at relevant floors and spots in the building (relevant meaning that it had to do with the period that the Tower is set up to commemorate). Moving throughout the building would require listening to instructions which will guide visitors through the tour which will include riding the elevator or going up stairs but most of the time simply walking around the room and observing the setup of the room while listening to the audio created for it.

The Tower would be set up to resemble how it would have been at the peak of a typical business day in the 1950s. In the audio tour, there will be multiple narrators associated with different parts of the building, many of whom will be people who used to work for The Oakland Tribune when it occupied the Tribune Tower. It would be most ideal to have the majority of these narrators be people who worked in the building for The Oakland Tribune during the 1950s but considering that that was 60 years ago, this might be difficult. The narrators would talk about daily life working inside the Tower and give history of the Tower throughout the tour. It would all be aimed at giving the visitor a feel for what it must have been like to work inside the Tower as a reporter during the peak of The Oakland Tribune’s occupation of it. This would be enhanced through sounds going on in the background of the narrator’s voice reflective of what a bustling newsroom would have sounded like in the Tower during the 1950s.

1950s newsroom of the Oakland Tribune

There would be certain parts of the building that would be set up to look nearly exactly like it did in the era that it is resembling. An example of this would perhaps be a desk with a typewriter on it, an ashtray, and a wristwatch. On the wall above the desk would perhaps be a framed newspaper article pertaining to the person who used to occupy that desk. The visitor might be instructed to walk over and touch the objects set up at the desk while pausing with background noise of conversations in the work office, doors opening and closing, Zippos being struck, etc., being played through the headphones. All of this would give the visitor a feeling of actually being there with the noise and the way the building is set up enhancing the experience. The audio tour would navigate you through the Tower and the building adjacent to it stopping you along the way for these kinds of experience. By the end of the tour, you would be at the top of the tour looking around at the City of Oakland having had an enriching interpretive experience of the heritage site.

View from the top of the tower

The main theme that will be incorporated into this site will be the historical theme. This is obvious considering the fact that the tour is taking you into the past to a unique time in the Tower’s history. Tourism is also a theme that will be incorporated into this project considering that people will be visiting the site for the sake of the experience and therefore be creating more people traffic in that area. The audience that I feel this would reach out to most would be the people who used to work in the building for The Oakland Tribune. They are the ones that would be able to enjoy the experience the most as it would hopefully bring back memories of working in the tower. However, with this being said, this is also the interest group that we would have to be most careful with. This is so because they may also be oral histories of the building and if our depiction of the tower during their period of time does not fit their oral description, then the genuineness and the authenticity of the project takes a toll. I would suggest, as I said earlier, that these are the people that should be incorporated into the project as their insight would be incredibly helpful with depicting the building the correct and authentic way. Another audience that might be drawn to this project would be the building owner or any building owners over the years considering that they have seen the tower and what it has gone through over the years making this experience very meaningful to them. The last (but not least) audience to be incorporated would be members of the Oakland community considering that this building is in a sense theirs as it has been a part of their community for a long period of time.

This project exemplifies sustainability through the way that it sustains the history of the Tower which is something that may be easily forgotten. This history is sustained through the recreation of a setting within the Tower and immersing the visitor into that setting. The audio tour will hopefully be so successful as to trick the visitor into feeling like it is not the present day anymore therefore having them feel as if they have “time travel” to a different time through the sights, feelings, and the sounds of the bustling 1950s news room in the Oakland Tribune Tower.

The aim of this interpretive project is to convey the sights, sounds, and feelings of being inside the Tribune Tower in the 1950s (a unique time in the Tower’s history) to the visitor through an audio tour. This tour will shed some light on the history of The Oakland Tribune and will hopefully give the visitor an enriching experience leaving them feeling as if they have traveled in time while they were on the tour.

This will hopefully open the community’s eyes to the importance of the Tower and the role that it has played in the community of Oakland over the years.


Posted on December 10, 2015, in Anthro136kF2015, Oakland-Tribune. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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