“I was seventeen years old when I acquired this typewriter from the Iowa City Goodwill store,” so begins Elyssa Shalla’s story.
“Its mustard accents, the crisp reflexes of its keys, and its sturdy traveling case were worth the five dollar price tag. Neglected in my parents’ basement, I rediscovered it a decade later, stashed it in the trunk of my car and drove it west to Grand Canyon National Park.”
What happened next was something quite wonderful.
Shalla, a National Park Ranger, used the typewriter to create a pop-up storytelling project for visitors to the Grand Canyon National Park.
As she explains: “In the final 48 hours of 2017 a new ribbon was installed and it was carried in the pannier of a mule named Cookie from Indian Garden to the edge of the Tonto platform in the Grand Canyon.”
For three days at the end of 2017 and early 2018, hikers encountered the typewriter after a 6-mile hike down to a scenic overlook, along with this note.
Dear Hiker, welcome to Plateau Point. You’ve hiked a long ways. Please take a seat in the chair and relax. Look around. Take it all in. What does this moment mean to you?
In three days, Shalla says, hikers left 76 messages, which became the Towers & Type Project.
“We need to provide more opportunities to give people the chance to stop and think and feel at the same time and then give them a platform to share their experiences,” says Shalla. “That’s one of the greatest things we could do in our national parks.”
And, of course, that’s true of everywhere.