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» Private Art WWII Letters To and From Home.

» A Conversation with Rebecca Hargrave - WebbieWorld, August 1999.

» Communication Arts Web site review, March 1999.
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By Marty Lucas, Trip-M archive »

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In This Edition
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Private Art is more than just another web site: it is a project that brings people closer together despite their physical geography.

People like Barbara Sandes and Chall Allred who were united online through their shared experiences of war. And people like Rose and Art Pranger from Covington, Kentucky whose efforts to preserve their personal history inspire people all over the world to tell their own story.

In this edition of Trip-M, Marty Lucas interviews Rebecca Hargrave, the creator of a unique digital storytelling project, Private Art: WWII Letters To and From Home.

» To the Interview.

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Saving Private Art

       When Rebecca Hargrave graduated from the Florida School of the Arts in 1989, she had a career goal of not having a career. She traveled north, stopped in Nashville for a while, then landed in Cincinnati where she found a day job at a digital design studio that specialized in state-of-the-art prepress for some top-flight advertising agencies.

       The studio had a hook: they used modems to get data from the ad agencies into the prepress system. Rebecca quickly got the hang of telecommunications and temperamental ad agency art directors alike and was soon promoted to Production Manager. Her considerable computer skills and artistic background soon helped her become a temperamental ad agency art director herself.

       By 1992, after two years of long days and even longer nights of “you want it when?” she felt the need for a more creative outlet. Along with some friends, she put the modems and some software called “First Class” to work building community sites. These bulletin board systems, or “BBS’s” were telephone-based networks that supported devoted online communities in the pre-Web days.

       “I love it when people complain about how limiting the web and HTML is.” Rebecca says. “My first thought is that they are missing the point of what the Web is about anyway. Yet I also recall First Class, with its 8-bit color, 2400 baud modems, and limited customization capabilities. I’ll never forget having to squeeze all my interface graphics into a single ‘settings file’ that had to be under a megabyte if I wanted people to download the software.”

       By 1994, designing for the Web had become her full-time job. Her work didn’t go unnoticed: Project Cool, for example, has listed a cool baker’s dozen of her creations as notable examples of how the Web should be used.

Rebecca Hargrave        One of her best-known creations is Private Art: WWII Letters To and From Home. The titular Private Art is Art Pranger. Rose Pranger, Art's wife, had discovered Art’s letters from WWII in an attic and made a project — Rose likes projects — of typing them into a word processing program to preserve the decaying letters for her family’s future generations. Rebecca read the letters and called Rose aside, “There’s a bigger story here than just preserving letters for the family. If other people could read this…it’s an Everyman story.”

       Private Art debuted on the Web in 1997. In this edition of Trip-M, Mappa.Mundi Magazine’s editor, Marty Lucas, interviews Rebecca Hargrave about the making of Private Art, and how the ancient art of storytelling is changing to adapt to the digital age.

To the Interview » One of the Family.

 Copyright © 1999, 2000

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