Share this project

Done

Share this project

Done
A journey to rediscover the lost narratives of river people, river communities, and the river itself.
A journey to rediscover the lost narratives of river people, river communities, and the river itself.
A journey to rediscover the lost narratives of river people, river communities, and the river itself.
81 backers pledged $5,417 to help bring this project to life.

About

A Secret History of American River People project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

A Secret History of American River People

$5,417

81

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.

Sylvia on the WIllamette River
Sylvia on the WIllamette River

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.

The Project

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.

A Recreated Shantyboat
A Recreated Shantyboat

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

The Journey

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

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.

Social Media from the River
Social Media from the River

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

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    YOUR ART GOES ON THE SECRET HISTORY EXPEDITION. If you send us a postcard, we will hang it up in the shantyboat or add it to the Secret History archive. After pledging, send card to Secret History, 548 Redwood Dr, Felton CA 95018 before July 10th.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    4 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    NEW! THANK YOU EMAIL. For your support of the project, we will send you an immediate email, and who knows, strike up a correspondence and become fast friends forever.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    NEW! DOUBLE-DOUBLE SUPER PRACTICAL BOAT SUPPORT PLEDGE. Your modest contribution to the Kickstarter plus select one of the many things we need for the trip from our wishlist (http://amzn.com/w/3BZT16UTFU5DL) and have it sent straight to us! We will send you a personal thank you and email you a photo of it installed in the shantyboat.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    A HAND-TYPED POSTCARD ENROUTE.

    While sitting on the porch with our feet in the river we will be thinking of you, dear funder, and will send you a postcard typed up on our vintage typewriter as proof. Hear about our daily travails and get a glimpse into river life, delivered by USPS!

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 11 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A HAND-SCRAWLED DRUNK POSTCARD ENROUTE.

    In the evenings while we are drinking to forget the latest fury the river has thrown at us, we'll carelessly scrawl you a postcard that we may regret later. Hear all about whatever is on our minds, unfiltered by inhibitions, propriety, and good sense, delivered by USPS!

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 27 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    GLASS PENDANT FROM BROKEN REAR SHANTYBOAT DOOR.

    You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, and building a shantyboat is much the same. We toured the finest junkyards and abandoned buildings for boat materials, and will send to you a tiny memento of that process. Using shards of uniquely pebbled translucent glass broken from what is now our backdoor, we'll use stained glass techniques to solder an artsy pendant.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 6 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    NEW! A DRUNKEN LETTER FROM THE BOAT. In the long nights, as we moor on the banks of the Mississippi, we will have little to do but drink and send letters and cards back home. We will unleash all of our anxiety, passion, and excitement in a drunken (probably typed) tirade in a letter to you via the USPS.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    3 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    NEW FINAL 500 REWARD! SECRET HISTORY POSTER. Our text, photography and design, printed on heavy photo paper in a giant 26 inches by 42 inches, delicately printed in gorgeous clear color. I can promise you that you will not be disappointed.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    NEW! SUPER COMBO DEAL. A Broken glass pendant PLUS a hand-scrawled drunk postcard PLUS the double-double PLUS your art goes with us. We're bustin' a move to get you your rewards, but that means, you'll have to bust a move as well to send us your postcard art soon as you can and visit our wishlist and select something to purchase for the shantyboat (http://amzn.com/w/3BZT16UTFU5DL). Whew, all that and a bag of chips.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    NEW! PRESSED PLANT PENDANT. Riverbanks provide lush hunting grounds for plant lovers, and you, too, can reap those rewards. Along the way we will be gathering interesting species and pressing them for later identification. Using stained glass techniques along with glass from microscope slides, we'll preserve a bit of our carefully labeled bounty in a botanical pendant.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    SIGNED COPY OF THE GOOD SHIP ABANDON. Artist Wes Modes created a short comic book of his adventures punk rafting on the Missouri River. Color printed and bound comic, signed by the artist.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 3 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    SECRET HISTORY ETHNOBOTANICAL POSTER.
    Plants can be medicine, food, clothing, and tools, and we hope to gather stories and examples of these species along our journey. You will receive a large printed poster of Mississippi plant species with notes pertaining to their use, as collected on our trip.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    SHANTY BOAT TOUR AND PORCH TIME.

    Want to visit the boat in person? Travel to our boatyard to get an idea of what it would be like to live in a tiny floating cabin. On a warm late summer night, we'll give you a personal tour, and sip from your own bottle of Wes' homemade Fire Whiskey while we share a cigar and stories while sitting on the porch of the shantyboat.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 2 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  14. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    NEW! SKYPE DATE WITH SECRET HISTORY ARTISTS. If we are near a marina with wifi or perhaps in some cafe along the river, we'll meet with you to share some of the stories of our journey. You'll get to ask us all about the compromises and drama of living in tight quarters, and hear stories that aren't fit for the general public. Our one-hour date can be redeemed over the internet, or afterward, in person at a mutually agreeable place, if you live near the SF Bay Area.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    JOIN US ON THE RIVER. Meet us enroute and join us for a couple days on the river. You'll have to make the arrangements to get to the Mississippi River, but you will be our guest for a journey you will not soon forget.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.
  16. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    SPECIAL THANKS IN FILM CREDITS.

    For our most generous funders, we'll record a short clip of us holding a special thank you with your name, for the credits of the final documentary. See your name writ large, on the banks of the Mississippi, and be remembered a generous contributor to this project every time the film is shown.

    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 0 backers
    $
    Kickstarter is not a store.

    It's a way to bring creative projects to life.

    Learn more about accountability.

Funding period

- (15 days)