The Klondike Letters Project
Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.
From June 25 thru July 7, artist Corrie Francis Parks hiked through Klondike Goldrush National Historic Park gathering postcards for a collective portrait of the Chilkoot Trail.
The things I remember most from my trips into the wilderness are the moments I’ve recorded in my sketchbook. When I sit down and really look at a place for a long time, I remember the landscape as seen through my pencils and papers. When I look back at the drawings years later, the space beyond the drawing begins to reform around me. I feel the mosquito bite on my knee, hear the sound of my companions setting up camp in the distance, catch the scent of the forest on the breeze. The physical act of translating the experience in our minds through our hands onto paper is a solidifying act. The 2 dimensional drawing becomes my portal into a 3-dimensional memory.
What do you want to remember from this journey?
During my two weeks on the trail, I asked that question hundreds of times – on postcards and in interviews with my fellow travelers. 150 people wrote postcards to themselves while at the top of Chilkoot Pass. This June, when the words and images of that moment have lost their sharpness and faded in their mind, I will mail those postcards, as a vibrant catalyst for our memories of the Chilkoot.
In the meantime, every postcard has a multitude of stories contained within a few sentences. My job as a filmmaker is to draw one of those stories out and bring it to life through animation. Each film is a collaboration with the past and the present, rooted in the real people and landscapes I encountered on the trail and playfully reinterpreted through my personal imaginative memories of my own journey.
What does it all mean?
On a deeper level, this project is about why we seek out places of wildness and what we experience there. Though the stampeders were seeking gold in the Klondike wilderness, the vast majority didn’t find their fortune. From their letters and diaries, we can see they did find other things: adventure, suffering, love, an insight into human nature at its best and worst. It’s a long journey to get to the Klondike. What do you find in this place that you can’t experience in your daily life, what moment is going to change your life in some small but hopefully significant way? Ultimately, this is what makes these places worth preserving.
See you on the trail!
Corrie Francis Parks
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park