Ken Burns Developing Online History Education Website ‘Chronoscribe’

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is working with Colorado engineers Jon Martinez and Jesus Salazar to create an online history education website known as Chronoscribe.

Chronoscribe would look like a virtual globe, with all the events of history placed on it, accessible to users much in the same way users can access Wikipedia, writes Debbie Kelley for The Gazette.  The website also will include special tools for teachers and students for classroom use.

“The idea that history is for historians isn’t right. We’re living history all the time, but we distance ourselves from it, like we aren’t part of it,” Martinez said. “Chronoscribe makes people very much a part of history.”

They are hoping to raise $500,000 on the website Indiegogo.com in order to fund Chronoscribe’s start-up.  The crowdfunding campaign will run for 60 days.  In that time, individuals can invest as little as $1 into the project.

The trio would like to have the website up and running by 2015.

“It’s a key point to knowing history. You get a better sense of where people are coming from and why they are the way they are,” he said. “That understanding helps make the world a better place.”

Burns, a critically acclaimed historical documentarian, has been a vital resource for the project.

“He’s been doing historical research for decades and not only knows great subject matter, but also how data should be used and displayed,” Salazar said.

Burns is well known for such documentaries as The Civil War (1990), The War (2007), and Prohibition (2011).  He has spent his career developing historical documentaries on all aspects of American life, including sports, music, technology, and nature.

Burns’ films are highly recognized in the film industry, and he has won multiple awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

His most recent documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” looks into the lives of Franklin, Eleanor, and Theodore Roosevelt.  A seven-part series, the documentary will be the first time the stories of all three people have been entwined, and will aim to show just what made these people the way they were.

The film offers viewers a look into the lives of the Roosevelts, covering 104 years.  Much of the research was done at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York, according to John Barry for The Poughkeepsie Journal.  Burns used many of Eleanor’s personal letters in the documentary.

Says Burns of the Roosevelts:

“(They) are at the center of what it means to be Americans,” he says. “It’s the center of our story. Everything that they dealt with then is topical now. What is the role of government? What can the citizen expect of the government? What is the nature of leadership? How does character form leadership? … What’s the nature of heroism? Isn’t heroism, in fact, a very complex negotiation, sometimes war between a person’s very obvious strengths and their equal and perhaps not so obvious weaknesses? (So this story) has three of the most amazing human beings you’ll want to get to know.”

The series will air on PBS on September 14-20, 2014.