Freedom Fone

Recording oral histories

Imagine a walk through the city of Berlin. As you pass a now nearly invisible checkpoint where the former Berlin Wall once stood, you can dial a Freedom Fone Service and listen to sound recordings that bring to life the history of that particular spot.

Suddenly you can hear the shootings of fugitives from a once divided city followed by the celebratory shouts on the day the Wall went down. Continue past the Dom (cathedral) and you can choose to hear a historical account of the architecture but also the story about the original building plan which was secretly hidden by one of the carpenters in the steeple.

An ordinary house may grab your attention because of the grafitti on the wall. As you listen to information left on the Voice Menu function you find out that during World War Two a Jewish family was hiding in the attic to escape the holocaust. Later you pass a house where the poet and playwright Bertold Brecht once lived. You can listen to one of his most famous poems while you rest a little.

Now imagine the city you live in. You'll find that nearly everything has a hidden story to tell: a house, a tree, a street, a river, an abandoned train track... Even an empty space might have a story to tell – missing houses that were once a distinctive feature of the landscape or environment and are now reduced to dust. But somewhere a living memory survives.  

Imagine your community Council, a cultural organisation or even a group of students using Freedom Fone to build a virtual history of your city or community. Audio content is created by a small team of editors and uploaded onto alternate Voice Menus that can be listened to on an on-demand basis including a mix of speech, music and poetry. The service is widely advertised using flyers or posters to allow the general public to Leave-a-Message in places where they recall important events that happened at a certain time or place. Callers' stories can be stored on a public archive linked to an interactive online map while being integrated back into the service.

As long as you are carrying your mobile phone you can call on the spot, listen to recordings that trigger memories and participate in creating a collective history. Reminding people of their cultural and collective heritage can create a sense of shared memory, common belonging and civic solidarity in any city or community.

Resources needed


  • 2 Computers
  • 1 x OfficeRoute
  • 4 x Sim Cards from local Mobile Network Operators
Staff and Competencies
  • Proficiency in content creation (importance of historical accuracy, ability to tell stories and read poems)
  • Staff dedicated to listening to messages, making a selection of relevant ones, updating the map
  • Legal counseling on archives' use and negotiation with the City
Advertising costs
  • Creation and distribution of postcards

Role of Freedom Fone

  • Recording oral histories
  • Mobile information-on-demand
  • Sharing collective memory