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Supporting history

The Legal Genealogist is about to put her money where her mouth is.

Here’s a challenge to my readers. As this post’s title says, it’s a Revolutionary challenge. And, no, the capital letter there isn’t a mistake.

Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, is trying to raise funds for an extraordinary project: to bring the faces and the stories of Americans who lived in the Revolutionary War era — and lived on long enough to be photographed — to life in a film called Revolutionary Voices.

And she needs our help.

There’s an outfit called Kickstarter where folks involved in the creative arts can ask for and receive support from the general public for projects that otherwise would never see the light of day.

Contributions aren’t tax-deductible, they don’t buy an ownership interest in the ultimate product.

You do it because you think the project is the right project to be done and the person doing it is the right person to be doing it.

There’s no doubt that Maureen is exactly the right person to be doing Revolutionary Voices. She’s an internationally recognized photo identification and family history expert, author of books and magazine articles on the subject, who’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Hallmark Television, The View, Better Homes & Gardens, the Boston Globe, Martha Stewart Living, MSNBC, PBS Ancestors, and more.

The projects she’s taken on have been ambitious, but none more ambitious than The Last Muster, now two volumes published by the Kent University Press (volume 1: 2010; volume 2: 2013). It’s a wonderful project and the books are described by the publisher this way:

A remarkable work of documentary history, The Last Muster is a collection of rare nineteenth-century photographic images—primarily daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and carte des visite paper photographs—of the Revolutionary War generation. This extraordinary collection of images assigns faces to an un-illustrated war and tells the stories of our nation’s founding fathers and mothers, updating and supplementing research last collected and published over a century ago.

In her comprehensive introduction, author Maureen Taylor explains how she came to this project and collected the images. She also describes her exhaustive primary source research involved in dating and identifying each image and investigating the story and genealogy of each subject. The array of seventy images is expansive and includes veterans, loyalists, Native Americans, African Americans, children who witnessed battles and aided soldiers, and women who nursed the wounded and even took up arms themselves. Although the faces that gaze at the reader are old and wizened, the stories they tell are of youthful bravery in the young days of the republic.

The Last Muster is a much-needed contribution to the history of the American Revolution, the early Republic, and the history of photography. Through these portraits and the accompanying narrative, readers will have the opportunity to relive the Revolutionary War.

Wonderful. Absolutely stunning. And — at $45 a volume in paperback — not going to reach a fraction of the people this story needs to reach.

And that’s why this is exactly the right project to be done: putting the stories with the faces, going behind the images to the history, and telling it in a compelling way in a form that will reach a vastly wider audience than could ever be reached with the printed word.

You can read about and hear the whole story of this film on the Kickstarter page for “Revolutionary Voices”: A Last Muster Film. Or just click on the image above to watch and listen.

You’ll find that making a film like this is an expensive project. To put it mildly. The production costs will be somewhere in excess of $200,000. To begin shooting, the project needs $27,500. And Maureen and the production company she’s team with have asked the genealogical community, and everyone else interested in history, to support these efforts.

So here, dear readers, is the challenge. I’m going to make my own pledge to support Revolutionary Voices. And for every one of the first 50 readers who joins me, I’ll kick in an extra $5 to the project.

That’s right: I’m putting $250 of my own money where my mouth is, over and above my own contribution.

And all you need to do to take up this challenge is make your own pledge at the Kickstarter page for “Revolutionary Voices” — the minimum is $1 — and then tell me you’ve joined in.

You can do it in the comments to this post. You can do it on Facebook (add my name, Judy G. Russell, to your post). You can do it on Google+ (add +Judy G. Russell to your post). You can do it by email. You can do it in your own blog, linking to this one.

You can do it any way you want.

But do it. This is a project worth doing.

Let’s help get it done.

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