Carleton Tunnels: History & Culture

Our group is interested in documenting Carleton’s tunnel system, which has been closed off to students since 1988. A quick search of available materials in the online archives reveals the tunnels’ role in history such as in the birth of KRLX Radio, a part of the national nuclear fallout shelter program, decades of student artwork, and various musical performances (another article here). Currently, the tunnels host KRLX’s AM lines, cable TV lines, the wiring for the campus keycard security system, and computer cables. The campus has no telephone poles; instead, phone lines are wired through the tunnels

Due to security concerns (Carleton facilities does not want the exact locations of their fiber-optic cables to be publicly accessible), it is unlikely that Carleton Security would allow us to incorporate a full or geo-located map of the tunnels into this project. However, because the tunnels will only continue to deteriorate and be closed off further over time, we would like to digitally preserve, collect, and showcase the rich history of the tunnels’ art and writings without assigning specific geographic locations. 

This project will be led by the question, “How can the graffiti in Carleton’s tunnel system reflect on and inform us about student life when the tunnels were open?” 

Due to their closure and their collection of left-behind bikes, ancient PE equipment, graffiti’d art and writing, and more, there is always a large interest in the tunnels. The scattered information regarding them and their history — both blurred by rumors and hard to find — only add to an increasing air of mystery around them. We are considering using a mapping program to help visualize the movement of some portion of the tunnels, if possible. Regardless, this project will allow us to examine the art of the tunnels as a sort of exhibition for students. Combining various sources about the history of the tunnels, we will be able to offer a new synthesis of information that will finally shed light on “the secret tunnels” and turn them into an approachable and concrete showcase of an important piece of Carleton’s history. 


Inspired by Chinatown, Resilient and Proud, we would like to create a walkable collection of information from both us (pending approval by Campus Security) and decades of audio clips, articles, memoirs, and photos in the archives. We could use ThingLink or Roundme to combine 360° videos that we take (or create our own 3D model) to create a similar exhibit. We could also use the game engine Unity or Sketch-up to combine photos of the walls with our own models of a tunnel. 

Proposed timeline: 

Week 8 

Contact security for a tour of the tunnels. Schedule time to go to the physical library archives. 

If approved for tour: Check out 360° camera and digital camera for footage of the tunnel. 

If denied for tour: Contact professors and faculty cited in articles about the tunnels for interviews to include in our exhibit. 

Week 9 

Finalize research materials and bibliography. Build out a 3D tour, add photos and information. 


MJ Fielder-Jellsey; Alejandro Gonzalez; Kelly Hanna; Alistair Pattison; Mikai Tilton



  1. This looks great Team Tunnels! I really like the concept and you’ve begun exploring various options for turning your idea into reality.

    I installed a WP site for you at and added several of you as admins — check your email. This should be the most flexible solution for embedding your components to build out your final site.

    Very excited to see what you create! Let me know if you want to discuss more advanced options like Unity for a VR headset or AR experience.

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