Mappa.Mundi Magazine
One of the Family
Setting the Stage
Creating Community
Telling The Story
A Whale

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More Stories:
Citizen Soldiers
Citizen Soldiers
by Stephen E. Ambrose (Introduction)

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» Private Art WWII Letters To and From Home.

» The Canteen - The home of Rose Pranger and the site guestbook.
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Saving Private Art. An interview with Rebecca Hargrave Trip-M archive »

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Living history
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"I asked Art one time - 'did you ever think that anyone would use your letters for research and in the classroom 50 plus years later?' Of course, he is still amazed. Me too."

- Rose Pranger
Covington, KY

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Creating Community

       Marty Lucas: We hear a lot about community, but sometimes an online community is just a couple of people launching flames at each other. Other times you get people sharing their treasures, their feelings, and useful information. What does it take to create a real community experience like Private Art?

       Rebecca Hargrave: Well, I’m not a war buff or a historian. I don’t know much about war, but I understand people and their emotions. I think you really score with a community when you understand how to move people and get people involved. That’s when you build a community. You and I have talked before quite a bit about community from a marketing standpoint. You know, the various discussion boards and stuff. That stuff kind of leaves you flat. But when you build a real community it means that people are involved enough — moved enough — to take the site beyond the Web.

       Marty Lucas: In the Digital Storytelling Cookbook by Joe Lambert, he sets out seven elements that he feels make for good digital storytelling. One of the elements is a “point of view”. The story of Private Art is told so directly, so plainly, and without glamorization — it doesn’t dehumanize anybody. I couldn’t help but feel that the point of view is essentially an anti-war story. What do you think about that?

       Rebecca Hargrave: That’s interesting. I don’t know. The point of view I used was the point of view I saw sitting in my kitchen with Private Art and Rose (Art’s wife). And you’d almost have to know them to appreciate their point of view, but I think I convey that on the site. People get emotionally involved with the characters because the site successfully communicates their individual personalities. But you saying, “it’s an anti-war story,” I think the way that we tell the story lets people draw their own conclusions. We have some people that think it’s the most patriotic story they’ve ever seen.

       Marty Lucas: Well there’s no contradiction in being patriotic and being anti-war, hopefully at least, right? For me, the death of Bob Bailer on the North Atlantic in 1943, and seeing it in the words of people close to him was a moving experience. And there were so many other lives that ended too soon. And yet, Private Art never dehumanizes the enemy - it says the enemy did some bad things, but it doesn’t dehumanize them.

       Rebecca Hargrave: It’s totally from the points of view of the people at the time and how they expressed it then in their own words. It’s Private Art’s point of view, it’s Rose’s point of view as she makes [present day] comments in the blurbs that accompany some of the letters — it’s Art’s mother’s viewpoint too.

       I suppose it is anti-war in that you wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody that you know and love, you wouldn’t want your family to go through this. So in that respect it is. But it’s really what the user brings to it, they read it and draw their own conclusions. Users say, “Private Art means this to me”, and I think that’s part of its success.

       Marty Lucas: Tell us a little about how schools are using Private Art.

       Rebecca Hargrave: We get a lot of e-mail from educators who are using it to supplement their basic curriculum. We also get a lot of e-mail from people who are home schooling their children. Many people think that the best way to really know about history is to see it through the eyes of a real person, to listen to a first-hand account from somebody who was there. We get teachers and students checking in with us regularly. Private Art and Rose have conducted interviews with students, and we get a lot of e-mail from students asking permission to use images from the site in their report, that kind of thing.

Next Page » Telling the Story.

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