When I started History Chip I thought it would be a build it and they will come sort of thing. I was wrong. It has been a bit of a slog. It is growing and more and more people are finally "getting it." But I have to tell you, even a good number of my friends kind of look at me cock-eyed when I talk about History Chip either as though they don’t get it or that they just are tired of hearing about it because they are my friends and that is about all I talk about. But there are those who totally get it, are as excited about it as I am and who stand and cheer about the project. Maybe the ones who don't "get it" think history is boring or that history is only about kings and queens, or maybe that History Chip is all about ancestry or that their lives aren’t important so why should they tell their stories or that they don’t “know how to write”. And all of those notions miss the point. So, I thought I would try again to explain it to those who look at me cock-eyed.
The thing is, nearly every time I meet someone, I wonder about their story. I want to ask every one of them how they got here or, what do they do for a living or what sorts of sports they like, or what sorts of foods they like or how did they decide to get that particular tattoo. This isn’t just because I am curious, which I am, but because the answers to these questions paint a picture of our world, our people, our lives together on this planet - what makes us, as a population, tick and get along and argue. And all these little details of our lives tell so much more about our world than who was king and when a certain war was fought. These details are our life. Life is about feeding our kids and getting them to school and caring for loved ones when they are sick and tending to them when they are dying. And life is about dancing and eating and laughing and working and playing and loving. There are only a few people in this world whose obituaries will be about big ‘important’ things. Most of our lives will be summed up with how hard we worked and played and loved.
Today, November 3, 2022, on Walt Woodward’s, Today in Connecticut History, on WNPR, Mr. Woodward wrote about the last entry in the diary of one Joshua Hempstead, a resident of New London, CT, and about the significance of his diary:
"While no one part of Joshua Hempstead’s life was exceptional, the fact that we know so much about him is, thanks to a detailed diary he kept faithfully for over 47 years, beginning on September 8, 1711. Filling over 700 pages, Hempstead’s diary is a treasure trove for historians of early America, providing a comprehensive account of everyday life in colonial Connecticut, with remarks on family issues, the weather, interactions with his slaves, business ventures, local politics, and more. He kept the diary into his 80th year, and on November 3, 1758, Joshua wrote his final diary entry, putting a period to one of the most historically significant documents in Connecticut history."
Wow! This diary of everyday life Mr. Woodward calls “one of the most historically significant documents in Connecticut history.” That’s amazing! This little diary of ordinary stories is so significant! It’s not the State Constitution or some important charter he is citing, this is just the diary of an ordinary man describing his ordinary life some 250 years ago.
And this is exactly what we are doing with History Chip but on a much larger scale. We are inviting people living everyday lives all over the world to use History Chip as their diary. And, while visitors to History Chip might not write every day, although they are certainly welcome to - and we would love it if they did - the crowd sourced writing of people all over the world gives the world the opportunity of a treasure trove for historians, with the same sort of information on “family issues, the weather, [hopefully no slaves], business ventures, local politics, and more.”
And this treasure trove is even more profound and rich because the doors are open wide to all voices of all colors and orientations and all corners of the globe. We welcome everyone to share their stories of everyday life because we know this is what life is about. There are a few kings and queens and presidents and captains of industry in the world but there are billions of regular folks living regular lives and that means there are billions of stories and we can’t wait to present them to the world. So, we have built it and all you have to do is come be a part of it. You don’t have to be a great writer. If you can put a few sentences together, you can document your story. Heck, you can add a story with video or audio. Just bring your voice, your memories, your experience. The doors are wide open. We welcome you to come in, make yourselves at home, get comfy, tell a story, make us laugh and cry and light up our minds with insights about life in your corner of the world. Be a part of this treasure trove for historians.