About this project
Secret History is an anthro-historical artist's journey through the history of a river. It weaves together threads of adventure, history, art, and story.
A Secret History of American River People Kickstarter campaign is almost at our deadline. We are funded and anything extra goes directly to other project expenses, such as paying the artists, more shantyboat outfitting, and an emergency fund. Check out the newly added homestretch rewards!
We take to the river, Those forgotten waterways that flow through most towns, hidden behind levees, shoved underground or behind the seediest neighborhood.
Just a few generations ago, there were whole communities of people living right on the river in shantyboats. And people living in the bottomlands that flood every spring. Now mostly all gone.
We go to the river to rediscover nearly forgotten history, to listen for the lost stories of river people, river communities, and the river itself.
Secret History is a journey to discover, present, and connect the lost narratives of working-class river communities from the deck of a recreated shantyboat that serves as both the vehicle for this journey and the project library and archive. The project will present these personal narratives through audio, video, and digital media, posting snippets and highlights from the river enroute.
Secret History is an archive of stories delivered on a variety of platforms. It is a web-based new media work, connecting viewers to the river and its people. It is a publicly-accessible archive that will be hosted in a public and permanent online home. Finally, it is an installation piece in the form of a recreated shantyboat that can be temporarily sited in galleries, museums, and other cultural centers.
In the first stage of the project, we're launching the shantyboat in Minneapolis, Minnesota in July. We'll be gathering and presenting the narratives of lost river communities on an archetypal American journey on the Upper Mississippi River.
This Kickstarter campaign is critical for launching the Secret History expedition. It will help pay for final outfitting of the shantyboat and transporting it across country. It will make sure we have decent audio-video equipment to record our interviews in the river communities we visit.
Thanks for helping support the project.
Visit the Secret History website at peoplesriverhistory.us
In this phase of the project, we plan to launch above Minneapolis, Minnesota just above the Falls of St. Anthony on the Mississippi River. We’ll be stopping in small and large towns along the way to interview strangers and people with whom we’ve made connections prior to the trip. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to research local resources and meet knowledgable people along the way. We plan to take out near St. Louis before the confluence with the Missouri.
We’ll be camping in the shantyboat, moored along the banks, on islands within the river, and at local marinas. We can resupply as necessary at towns along the route.
Documentation is key to this research expedition. We plan to record my journey, interviews and research with photos, audio and/or video, posting regular updates via blog and Twitter.
The plan is to compile a substantial oral history of the lost stories of the river and its communities by recording every interview, with strangers and with known contacts, in either audio or video format or both.
Digital and Social Media
During the journey, We seek to connect a geographically dispersed audience to the stories, the individuals, and communities along the river through social and digital media. Short-term products of this project include blog and Twitter updates in realtime along the journey. This includes short video and audio excerpts of interviews, photographs of places and interviewees, updates about the trip’s progress, and links to historical, social, and ecological resources.
Longer-term digital products of the project may include a short video documentary, audio documentary, comprehensive website, academic papers, or if the material is very fruitful, a book detailing the results of the research and the stories that emerged.
Library and Archive
A recreated shantyboat will serve as the long-term library and archive for the project. For the last two years, we have been building a shantyboat from scratch and documenting my progress online in a Shantyboat Build Blog. The hull is a flat-bottom barge designed by Glen L. Witt who adapted plans now almost 70 years old. The cabin is a gabled corrugated tin roof shanty with a small kitchen, a woodstove, and a sleeping loft.
A substantial non-fiction library of houseboat and river history has already been compiled for the archive. The digital archive will allow access to the stories and research compiled on this journey.
Between journeys, the shantyboat serves as a central piece around which the project is focused, a sculptural form, an installation, and an archive, which can be sited outside or inside of a museum or gallery space.
Risks and challenges
The shantyboat is an untested homemade boat floating on one of the largest rivers on the continent. Problems are almost certain to develop.
I am a veteran DIY boater and know from a decade of experience that the challenges and setbacks that you encounter on the river are part of the journey.
The project is an oral history of people's river experiences. This includes my own meta-narrative of the Secret History exhibition. There are the stories that people have to tell, and, as well, there is the story of discovering that story. The people, the places, the blissful days, the heat and humidity and mosquitos, the driving wind and rain, the setbacks. These are all part of the human history that we are all part of making.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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