What’s New on the Website?

With the passage of more than 30 years since the deaths in Jonestown – as well as the tenth anniversary of the launching of this site – the managers have noticed the same shift in interest that many of the survivors report: more and more queries ask for stories of the people of Jonestown, rather than just focusing upon the final day. As part of that, writers, researchers, academics and documentarians are increasingly turning their attention to the multiplicity of experiences and points of view, both during Peoples Temple 25-year history as well as the final 18 months in Jonestown. In both acknowledging and encouraging this trend, the website has undergone numerous changes in the past 12 months.

Photo Gallery

The current Photo Gallery on the site has been relatively static for the past few years, with most of the pictures coming from a limited number of sources. With the contributions of photos from many former members, the welcomed assistance by the California Historical Society, and – most importantly – the willingness of former Temple member and Jonestown survivor Laura Kohl to assume responsibility for the section, we anticipate that the 100 or so photos currently on the site will be increased by several fold by the beginning of 2010. Laura’s article about changes to the Gallery appears here.

Jonestown Research

The FBI’s complete release of all Peoples Temple documents has furnished Don Beck, who provides most of the material for the Jonestown Research section, with additional and more legible resources to continue his work, especially on the Edith Roller journals (which have been completed, even if the new material has not yet been uploaded). Don’s full report on the Jonestown Research section appears here.

Primary Sources

The other location on the site which has shown significant development in the last year is the Primary Sources page. A link that had fewer than 20 entries has grown to such an extent that we 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
The Freedom of Information Act and Jonestown

Newly-added material during this past year includes some documents which have never been published before. The new documents include:

• The booklet Pastor Jones Meets Rev. M. J. Divine, in which Jim Jones discusses his relationship with Father Divine and the Peace Mission;
• The 1961 letter of appointment of Jim Jones to the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission;
• A one-page flyer entitled “A True Follower of This Activist Christian Ministry” which captures the shifting theology of Peoples Temple after its move to Redwood Valley;
• The free will donation card from Temple office files which members were expected to sign, and which became problematic for people seeking to recover previously-made gifts to the Temple;
• A petition which the residents of Jonestown signed in early November to block the entry of Rep. Leo Ryan, a document which would be used against Larry Layton in his trials; and
• The Guyana autopsy of Leo Ryan, and the reports of the only autopsies conducted in the U.S., on seven Temple members.

We have scores of additional resources ready to upload in future months, with a goal of 200 primary source documents online by next year’s jonestown report publication.

Nevertheless, this remains the link which has the greatest potential for addition. If you have a document related to the Temple – ranging from a letter from a family member in Jonestown, to a court filing in a lawsuit involving the Temple, to a unique resource which will help to fill in some of the gaps in the understanding of Peoples Temple – we would love to hear from you.

Tapes and MP3s

One goal of this site which has not changed is to make available all the audiotapes known to be in existence, whether they come from the FBI’s collection of tapes gathered in Jonestown, or from other sources. The transcripts and summaries of more than 200 of these tapes can be found here.

Our initial efforts to offer downloadable tapes were frustrated by several technical problems this past year, although we do hope to have them available in that format within a few months. In the meantime, you can see which tapes are available as MP3s in the right-hand column here. You can obtain a CD with the transcribed tapes for $10 – or all the digitized tapes we have, including some nontranscribed tapes, for $20 – through this site. Within a few months, the MP3s of non-transcribed tapes will be noted in the complete listing of FBI tapes.