Gibson '16 and Anderson '16 start a new website to memorialize the old Lodge

by Alyssa Mehra | 10/18/16 12:30am

Throughout its 78 years, the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge has been a site of meaningful connection for the College community. In an effort to digitally memorialize these shared experiences following the building’s reconstruction, Connor Gibson ’16 and Gigi Anderson ’16 launched a website, “Sharing the Mountain,” last week. 

The online platform exhibits personal stories and experiences of Dartmouth students, alumni and community members in the form of podcasts and other media.

The Lodge has significant emotional ties for many members of the Dartmouth community, Gibson said, including himself. His parents are College alums and he has been going to the Lodge since childhood.

“I grew up watching how alumni interacted with the space and knowing how the physical structure itself represented a lot of the best part about Dartmouth — for me, the access to the outdoors, the community, developing relationships and challenging yourself,” Gibson said. “I’ve learned through my experiences and this project that it is such a place of growth for so many people.”

Sharing the Mountain showcases oral histories and memories of the Lodge in one- to three-minute recordings excerpted from conversations with College community members. Gibson and Anderson conducted interviews with 23 people around the Upper Valley, resulting in the 100 stories currently featured on the site. The pair talked to alumni and students from class years of 1953 to 2017.

Gibson and Anderson brainstormed different ways to share community anecdotes, including a book and an exhibit at Baker Berry Library, before ultimately settling on a website. Though first skeptical of the digital component and its possible contradiction with the Wi-Fi-free Lodge, Gibson acknowledged the website allows them to widely disseminate and continuously grow the project.

Gibson discussed the concept of a memory mosaic, in which each story is very personal on its own but contributes to a thematic collective meaning. He also noted that because so many people’s memories are tied to the physical structure itself, those memories may be less salient when the building is taken down.

“When you walk through the building, you feel the stories and the memories just come through the walls,” Gibson said. “Because the building no longer exists, we wanted to capture that feeling and give people a chance to share their feelings about the space.”

Anderson said that the diversity of conversation she experienced at the Lodge motivated her interest in valuing individuals’ voices through recorded stories.

“When you get hear people’s different inflections or moments of laughter or seriousness, that personality that is embedded into a podcast or voice recording is unique and gets lost in translation in a regular written narrative,” Anderson said.

The podcasts are segmented thematically on the website, allowing users to easily sort through the large number of stories, Anderson said, adding that the grouping emerged organically. Common threads include stories about relationships, the mountains and specific rooms in the building.

In order to continue capturing memories of the Lodge from an audience beyond their interview subjects, the team added a user-generated component to the website. Site visitors can share their story through audio, text or photos. Rachel Kesler ‘19 will be in charge of curating future submissions. They also hope to incorporate feedback received on the site, such as the addition of short videos.

The website has been in the works since September 2015. Gibson approached Anderson with the idea for this project, drawn by her affinity for storytelling, creative writing and the Lodge itself.

Gibson enrolled in a research methods in cultural anthropology class taught by Professor Elizabeth Carpenter-Song ’01, who later became the project’s advisor when Gibson and Anderson decided to expand it into an independent study. Gibson hoped the methods course, with its focus on anthropological theory and communal memory, would inform their work.

The course centers on students completing an ethnographic project throughout the term. Carpenter-Song embraces experiential learning by having students engage in ethnographic research firsthand. Because it is such an incredibly ambitious agenda to complete in such a brief term, many projects in the class move on to become senior projects or independent studies, Carpenter-Song said.

At the end of the term, Gibson and Anderson applied for a grant from the Claire Garber Goodman Fund for the Anthropological Study of Human Culture. The Goodman Fund gives anthropology students financial support to use for independent research at the undergraduate level, Carpenter-Song said.

The pair also received help from a web developer in Lebanon and people involved with the Digital Arts and Leadership Innovation lab to build the website, Anderson said.

Gibson reflected on the project as one of his greatest educational experiences at Dartmouth, one that helped clarify the direction he wanted to move in career-wise.

For Anderson, the most rewarding aspect of the experience was the support she received from the Dartmouth Outing Club, the anthropology department and people who shared her passion for the project.

“The fact that I contributed a little bit to maintaining the memory of the place that was really formative in my time at Dartmouth and meant a lot to other people is really cool,” Anderson said.

Correction appended (Oct. 31. 2016): The original version of this article incorrectly stated Carpenter-Song's class year at the College and the location of the website developer.