Roger Undersell has embarked on a new venture – creating a digital time capsule to organize and share his stories. He has led a full life: photographer, film maker, sound artist, plus supervisor of the volleyball courts at the UCSF Fitness & Recreation Centers. With help from Molly Hankwitz, a computer instructor with the Community Living Campaign, Roger is using The History Project to share his story.
A Modern Time Capsule
Niles Lichtenstein, co-founder of The History Project, was 13 when his father died, too young to really know him. The full impact of that loss hit Niles when he entered college. So Niles set about reconstructing his father’s past — collecting the vinyl records he loved and asking his father’s friends for stories of their shared past.
But when he tried to tell his father’s story, these disparate stories and artifacts didn’t convey the richness of the man and his times, they remained simply unrelated objects. There had to be a better way to help you remember the history that matters. Thus began the work of developing The History Project, or what Niles calls a “modern time capsule.”
Computer Technology Provides More Options for Storytelling
Roger Underhill is not trying to capture his parents’ story; he wants to tell his own. “People always seem to enjoy stories of my more interesting experiences, so I started writing them down a few years ago to be able to share them more widely. Computer technology provides more options now.” Inspired by a talk by a memoir writer at the San Francisco Irish Center, Roger began thinking about how he could tie these stories together.
After meeting Molly at the I.T. Bookman Community Center and hearing about The History Project, Roger was hooked. Here was a way to tell his story.
With so much material and so many stories, the process can take time. Roger and Molly have been meeting now for five months. Together, they have narrowed the focus, developed an outline, downloaded and transferred photos and files. It helps that Roger had a background in photography, sound and film, that he knows how to edit, and that he’s saved cartons of material.
Once all of this material “starts to congeal, and, as it becomes more of a memoir, I would think about sharing the project beyond family and friends. I’ve done lots of things I’ve dreamed of doing, and beyond, and I think others can too, and be inspired,” Roger said.
Share Your Own Stories
“We all have a lot of stories. The History Project gets you to focus on an episode, a segment in your life,” Molly said. It helps to have photographs, video and audio files, or be willing to search them out. There’s some writing involved too. It all takes time, effort and focus.
“We’re looking for seniors interested in doing individual projects. More people like Roger.” Molly said.
For more information about The History Project, email Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org. History Projects can continue to grow and evolve, and can include one person or many; for an example of a growing project with multiple contributors, see Community Living Campaign’s History Project.
The History Project class at IT Bookman is part of the SF Connected program funded by the San Francisco Department of Aging & Adult Services. For computer classes in other neighborhoods, see the CLC Calendar. Community Technology Network, Self Help for the Elderly, Lighthouse for the Blind, and Conard House also offer computer training and classes through SF Connected. To see a calendar of all free classes, or for more information, visit www.sfconnected.org.