Reimagining the way we remember the past

By Niles Lichtenstein

Piecing together the narrative of his late father’s life was an emotional and moving task for the CEO of The History Project. So he built a site that allows anyone to create vivid timelines of important memories and moments.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press works with The History Project and other startups to incorporate new technologies into the way we tell stories.

Everyone has a story to tell.

If you disagree, take a look at your Instagram, Flickr or Facebook profile. Our lives are full of experiences we’ve documented in one form or another, in moments that may not have seemed significant at the time, but resonate years later.

We have videos, photos, soundbites and pieces of text about ourselves in various places on computers, phones and cameras. In a way, we’re similar to our parents and previous generations, whose memories are spread out in physical photographs, letters and heirlooms.

When I was collecting the items my dad left behind, I interviewed his friends and family so I could attach a story to each of his belongings. As I finished, though, I realized there wasn’t a way to put everything together as part of a meaningful narrative.

I was heartbroken.

My father, Michael, lived life vividly – the times we spent in his metallic gray ’82 Scirocco singing “Desparado” by the Eagles couldn’t be confined to pictures. He deserved a rich, multimedia story to share with others.

So I, along with co-founder Ben Yee, set out to create The History Project, a modern time capsule that enables you to collect memories and curate them into beautiful and interactive timelines, maps and themes.

An example of a history project by HBO Films, showing the life of Richard Holbrooke, the subject of a documentary by HBO Films.

We’ve seen history projects incorporate social content, documents, press clippings and music. Companies such as The New York Times and HBO Films have created interactive timelines around corporate anniversaries and the subjects of documentaries.

The possibilities, though, don’t have to be up to just you.

Piercing together narratives is a team effort, and The History Project allows colleagues, friends and audiences to contribute memories and mementos toward a story.

Take for example “Ethernet: 1973-2003,” which captures the first 30 years of the technology’s existence. Communities sharing a common interest in Ethernet constructed the timeline using news archives from The Associated Press during the time period.

Start creating stories with The History Project!

And now, any organization or individual building their own history project can use AP’s image, video and text archives to share how they’ve been impacted by historical events and to provide additional layers of context to their stories.

Through The History Project, we think there is an opportunity to reclaim content that can get taken for granted. Whether it’s a meaningful email, a memorable song, a family recipe, physical photos or letters in a closet, we can’t afford to lose the incredible memories of our past.

We are excited to work with AP to build something truly special, something that will change the way all of our histories are recorded.

Niles Lichtenstein

Niles is the CEO and co-founder at The History Project.

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