Dial a payphone to listen to a story from 20 years ago

To promote its recently-opened retrospective, NYC 1993The New Museum has turned more than 5,000 payphones in New York City into analogue time machines, transporting residents and tourists back 20 years with the push of a few buttons. The Recalling 1993 campaign invites people on the streets of New York to dial a toll-free number, advertised on the back of payphone handsets, to listen to stories about what the city was like in 1993. What’s more, the stories are different from phone to phone and are tailored to the neighbourhood in which the phone is located; a call from Broadway might dial up stories about how the theatre thrived in 1993, while a payphone on the edge of Central Park might recall an era when the park was a more dangerous place.

Why I’m curious:

New York City has been experimenting with new ways to utilize the thousands of outdated payphones. Early this year, in fact, the city held a design challenge to see who could come up with interesting ideas to use the payphone infrastructure while payphone franchises in the city are still under contract. I like how they found an innovative way to turn some outdated everyday object into a perfect media that delivers geo-targeted, relevant and personal message. And I am interested to see how people will react to this campaign.

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