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Best of the Web

Best of the Web

“A History of New York in 50 Objects”
If you ask 50 people “What happened?” you will likely get 50 slightly different stories.  The facts and the context of the story may be the same, but how one relates to the facts and the context determines one’s own version of the story.  So there is something to the notion of there’s my version, there’s your version and there’s the truth.

The New York Times enlisted historians and museum curators to find 50 objects that could embody the story of New York. They included a 13,000-year-old mastodon tusk that was discovered in the Bronx in 1891; a boombox  like the one Radio Raheem carried everywhere in Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing”; and a jar of dust from the 9/11 site where two jet planes were flown into the World Trade Center towers by terrorists.  Though inanimate, the objects provide a glimpse into the history and culture of New York City.

“Story (us)”

With so many new methods and media for storytelling, “Story(us)” was founded in the belief that shared stories shape the meaning and momentum of everyday life, uniting the world around an idea.  Commissioned by the Future of StoryTelling summit, the introduction video of the project features interviews of various storytellers to show a larger, more holistic narrative — one that celebrates the value of individual experiences and shows how they combine to form the shared experience. The Make History project is an example of shared narrative, in which viewers’ own stories form a combined landscape of experiences.

“Clouds Over Cuba”
Marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum produced “Clouds Over Cuba,” an interactive exhibit that recounts the 13 days that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Sparked by the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles just 90 miles off the shores of the United States in Cuba, the crisis had President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev engaged in a tense standoff that, if not resolved, could have resulted in numerous deaths from nuclear war. The interactive is an interesting blend of history and fiction. Narration by actor Matthew Modine, along with access to pages upon pages of declassified government documents and expert testimonials, serve as a primer to the crisis. And the alternate history if Kennedy and Khrushchev did not keep their commitments to peace gives a chilling sense of what was hanging in the balance.

“This Land”

Elyria, Ohio, a city of 55,000 just 30 miles outside of Cleveland, can be a town that represents “Any Town, USA.” It was a town where the American dream was dreamed, a place where you could work in manufacturing, earn a pension and retire. It was once a destination place, and has the postcards to prove it.  The postcards now are remnants of the bustling manufacturing town that Elyria once was. As more countries industrialize and build up their own workforces, much of manufacturing takes advantage of the lower wages abroad and migrates to those developing countries, leaving towns such as Elyria in a sort of vacuum of employment.

The idyllic scenes of flags flapping in the grand city center park perhaps represent the town’s hope for reinvention and for the economy to become vibrant once again. Meanwhile, the town, which has raised generations on manufacturing, adjusts to harder times.

The New York Times series “This Land” looks at Elyria, a place that hopes for better days, a place where politicians say the American dream is still possible. Video portraits of the town and its inhabitants are beautifully integrated into a vertical tablet-style navigation that allows viewers to explore this “Any Town, USA.”

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