A display case in the John P. Holt Brentwood Library tells the story of construction crews uncovering Native American graves in 1997. It also has several artifacts recovered from the site. / Photo by Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
An audio tour of the John P. Holt Brentwood Library starts off by asking listeners to imagine the surprise of a heavy equipment operator as he uncovers a stone box filled with human remains.
The library was built on the site of a Missippian village. Construction crews found the stone graves while building the library in 1997, and archaeologists later found thousands of artifacts from the village and signs from dozens of structures.
Brentwood resident Holiday Mathis wrote and produced the audio tour because she wanted to remind people about what used to be there. She’s a syndicated horoscope columnist whose work appears in the Tennessean, as well as many other newspapers.
“They have a display case on the inside of the library with some artifacts … I was just really intrigued,” she said. “It really is a sacred place. I probably went there 100 times before I realized it was a sacred place.”
As the tour continues, Mathis leads listeners down the paved path leading to the Brentwood YMCA while she describes the culture of the Native Americans that used to live there. Music plays underneath the narration.
Mathis used the app VoiceMap to create the tour. Users can write and record stories about places they love and upload it to the app. Then anyone can download the audio tour and listen to it. The app uses the GPS in smartphones to play audio when listeners get to specific locations.
Mathis said she liked that the app offered her a way to tell people about the history of her town without having to talk to them directly.
“I’ve always wanted to give a tour but I’m kind of shy and I don’t memorize well,” she said. “Is there a way to give a tour without being there?”
Right now, the Brentwood library is the only tour available in the Nashville area.
She said she did extensive research on the Missippian culture while writing the story, and audio segments about the religion and society of the Missippians are triggered as listeners walk.
In addition to the history, Mathis offers directions so listeners know where to walk. If they veer off the path another voice intervenes to let them know that they’ve strayed.
“Not all who wander are lost,” the voice says. “But it looks like you might be.”
The tour leads listeners across the street and down the path leading to Crockett Park. The entire tour is a little less than a mile long and lasts about 30 minutes.
At the end of the tour, Mathis mentions that there aren’t many monuments from the Missippian culture to marvel at today. The Native Americans living in Brentwood didn’t use brick or stone when they built their mounds. However, for Mathis, this audio tour seems to be a way to create a new monument so Brentwood residents can remember the people who lived here before the library was built.
You can download the audio tour from the VoiceMap app or from the company’s website.