How You Can Help

If you would like to support the project, please visit our Kickstarter campaign or visit our Patreon page to make a contribution.

We’re always either on the river doing fieldwork or preparing for next year’s expedition. So your help is always appreciated. There are lots of ways to support the project.

Rooted in the DIY and art worlds, by any real world standards, the Secret History project has a humble budget of around $20K. That seems like a lot until you consider that another modest project on this scale might easily top $100K.

Always looming are the costs of transportation, supplies, gas, food, and paying the artists so they have a home to come back to. Each year we’ve raised thousands of dollars with our Kickstarter campaigns, thanks to our backers and supporters! These funds cover many of the basic travel expenses for our trip, helps pay for final outfitting of the shantyboat, and makes sure we have decent audio-video and digital equipment to record our interviews in the river communities we visit.

Donate to the Project

Secret History is largely a donation-funded project and your contribution directly supports our fieldwork. Please visit our Kickstarter campaign or visit our Patreon page to make a contribution.

One-Time Contribution

Your one-time contribution can help us get over the temporary hurdles, motor repairs, auto troubles, and inevitable travel expenses. This is a good option if you want to help when we are not doing our spring fundraiser.

Donate via GoFundMe     donate with PayPal

Continued Support

While we focus on fieldwork during the summer, the project is year-round. When we are not on the river, we are busy doing production, writing books, exhibiting the project, maintaining the boat, and planning the next exhibition. Therefore your continuing monthly support is extremely helpful.

Become a Patron

Annual Campaign

We just successfully completed our annual spring Kickstarter campaign to support our summer fieldwork. This is our big crowdsourcing effort. This year’s and last year’s Kickstarter were successfully funded thanks to your help!

Kickstarter page:

We Need Your River Connections

I am particularly interested in people who have stories or research about working-class or displaced people living on or adjacent to the river. We’ve visited the Upper Mississippi and the Tennessee River and are headed to the Sacramento River. What critical resources or collections around shantyboat or bottomland communities do you know about?  Do you have connections to people whose voice is not typically heard in the dominant narrative of history.


We Need Help Outfitting the Shantyboat

We’re still looking for specific supplies, and have a Secret History Wishlist stocked with everything up to and including a kitchen sink. This is your chance to vicariously float along with us! Each item off of our wishlist gets delivered to our door, and labelled with the name of the generous donor (that’s you!). Check out the Secret History Wishlist and see if there is anything that you would like to send us.

Generous Supporters Have Send Us Equipment Directly

Generous supporters send us equipment directly.


Any equipment you donate will forever bear your name.


First we’d like to thank you for helping support the project.

Thank you to the Puffin Foundation for a 2017 grant to support the project.

Thank you to the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts (UCIRA) for a 2015 grant to support the project. Thanks to UC Santa Cruz Art Division Dean Bill Ladusaw for a Dean’s Excellence Award.

Thanks to all the many friends who helped with the project financially, conceptually, and physically over many weekends spent building the shantyboat. Thanks to Lawrence and Dorothy Manzo for offering to host the boat while it was being built and for extending that offer as the shantyboat build turned into the Secret History project. Thanks to Alex Barangan, Lisa Barangan, and Stephen Grillos for continuing to host the boat among the redwoods. Thanks to James Burgess, Lauren Benz, and Stacey Marie Garcia for help working on the boat.

Particular thanks to Kai Dalgleish for not only crewing on the boat during summer fieldwork 2014, but for untold days and days of work on the shantyboat and for sharing my aesthetic vision. Your technical know-how was invaluable and the project could not have happened without you.

Thanks also to Jeremiah Daniels for crewing on the boat every expedition, continuing support, helping organize difficult tasks, and rescuing us during various cross-country breakdowns. Thanks to all the crew of the Shantyboat Dotty who’ve braved the perilous hazards, sun, mosquitos, and White Russians on the shantyboat during summer expeditions.

Thank you to Alex Stevens, Shanai Matteson, John Sullivan, and Sara Lubinski who served as “connectors” directly or indirectly to dozens of people in their areas as we moved down the river.

Thank you to the National Park Service, Minnesota History Center, Works Progress Studio, National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque Iowa, Knoxville Museum of Art, Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence Alabama, the Paducah Kentucky Arts Alliance, and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History for art exhibitions and project funding.

Finally, tremendous thanks for all the invaluable generosity of people who allowed me, a stranger, to come into their world and conduct in-depth interviews and commit their words and images to the Secret History archive.