The Final Fate of the Shantyboat Dotty and a Question

I owe you an update. Several updates, actually. I think the last post I did was about the pearl button industry in Muscatine more than two months ago (time flies!).

For you savvy folks, you may already have been following the story in pictures which has been kept up-to-date. Check out the up-to-the-minute collection of Secret History photos here.

Did the shantyboat sink? Did Hazel, our ships mate, and I have to swim to shore? Did we have to survive on chestnuts and wild mushrooms on an uncharted island in the middle of a remote part of the Mississippi River? Did we have to wait until the ice was solid enough that we could walk to shore and to an internet cafe where I’m posting this now?

Well, I’ll let you know what became of us, and what disasters may have befell us in a bit here.


But first a question.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Secret History archive. People ask me all the time, “You gonna write a book? Make a documentary?” Answers, yes and yes. Plus the stories that people have shared with me, the full-length oral history interviews, become part of an archive that will be available to researchers and scholars online.

I’ve also wanted to present these stories, in a more easily-digestible form, something that would be a joy to watch and listen to, visually captivating. But what exactly?

I’ve was working on an interactive web documentary for about a year. It was a grand experiment, but it didn’t really capture the magic of the project or the beauty of the river or the insight of the people I talked to as well as it might.

Have you ever found yourself completely immersed in people’s real life stories? What form did that take? Was it a book? A documentary? A website? Something more interactive? I’m interested in the edges of storytelling and what are the most effective ways to present people’s personal narrative. Anything really shake you up or reach you at a really deep level?

You have thoughts about this? Good. Drop us a line here.

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