As this website enters its second decade of existence, we recognize that its growth and diversity are due to the efforts of its many contributors. Many of those contributions come in the form of articles and links to artistic efforts through our annual publication, the jonestown report, but other assistance comes through a more sustained effort. Three of the people who have made the greatest impact in the last year are:
• Don Beck, who recently completed the transcribing of the Edith Roller Journals, continues to transform the information in those pages into material for the Jonestown Research page. While the Roller journals provide a foundation for much of the research, recent releases of material under the Freedom of Information Act have also found their way to the page, with analysis and commentary to assist researchers in interpreting the material. More details about Don’s recent efforts are here.
• After years of trying to figure out how to manage the photographs the website has obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and private collections, we turned over the task to Laura Kohl, who has taken on responsibility for the Jonestown Gallery and who has devoted many hours to uploading and organizing the photos. Her article about the new page on the site appears here.
• Both by resurrecting the Jonestown Discussion Forum and in agreeing to serve as co-editor of the jonestown report, Rikke Wettendorff has taken on much of the ongoing responsibilities to stay in touch with many of the site’s regular visitors. Indeed, because she is the first contact many of the visitors – whether relatives or friends of people who died in Jonestown, or someone who has recently discovered the site and has general questions – her presence is especially important. Rikke’s introduction of herself as editor of the jonestown report is here.
Navigating the Site
In appreciation of the consequence of our growth, many of the efforts of the past 18 months have been in the direction of making the material on the site easier to find and the pages easier to navigate. As examples:
• For regular visitors to the site who are curious about recent additions, we have instituted a What’s New page which will provide links to materials that have been uploaded within the past 12-15 months.
• The Speakers Bureau, probably the site’s most valuable resource for identifying people who are available for interviews, student papers, and academic research questions, has been reorganized to offer more context of who people are and what their relationship to Peoples Temple and the events of 18 November 1978 is.
• For similar reasons, we have created separate pages on the site for some of our most frequent writers and contributors. The new splash pages are located on both the Personal Reflections page and the Articles page, the location again depending upon the individual contributor’s connection to Jonestown.
• As noted last year, one location on the site which has shown significant development is the Primary Sources page, and has been reorganized and divided the materials to reflect Peoples Temple’s different historical periods and locations. Those periods include:
- Indianapolis, Indiana – 1950s -1965
- Ukiah and Redwood Valley, California – 1965-1974
- San Francisco and Los Angeles, California – 1972-1977
- Guyana – 1973-1978
- John Victor Stoen Custody Battle
- November 1978
- Histories of Peoples Temple, Biographies of Jim Jones
- Aftermath – November 1978 – 1985
- The Freedom of Information Act and Jonestown
- The Jonestown Memorial at Evergreen – 2011
Further breakdowns within the various categories will occur as some of the sections continue to grow.
• Finally, as we have always done, we encourage visitors looking for information about a particular subject or person to use the “Search” function on the site, located in the upper right hand corner of each page. As with other search engines, this works best with more detailed requests, and name searches (especially) work best if you put both the first and last name in quotes, e.g., “Leo Ryan,” or “Sojourner Truth.”
Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer transcribers – including the most recent addition of Jennifer Gibbons – we continue to add to the list of tapes which have been transcribed and summarized. In addition, a continuing review of Peoples Temple documents released under the Freedom of Information Act has turned up several transcripts of tapes separate from those were recovered by the FBI in Jonestown. Those tapes will find their temporary home on the Miscellaneous Audiotapes page, which, like all audiotape resources, can be found through our Tapes page.
The most significant development in this area, though, is a new effort to annotate the sermons of Jim Jones. While the summaries of Jones’ sermons include his biblical references, this page will designate both Jones’ use of the King James version and the passage which he has cited within the text itself.
Responding to requests from numerous researchers and – in particular – artists working in both video and drama, we have made an effort to identify the online video resources using Peoples Temple footage and documentaries, most of which are on YouTube. Due to the ephemeral nature of YouTube – the location of many of these videos – the managers of this website ask that you contact us if you discover a video that has been removed or has problems.