This past year has been one of transition for the Alternative Considerations website, and many of the changes we are making will not become apparent until the new year. While we continue to update many of our online resources, we are taking steps to improve access to the most sought-after features of the site. For most people who visit the site, this means both our Jonestown tapes page and our Personal Reflections page. We are grateful that most of these improvements have been made by people other than the website managers and researchers.
Within the past twelve months, we have received numerous offers to transcribe Jonestown tapes, and the results of that work are almost ready to post. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Cathy Boring, Freya Kory, Mike Mele, Vicki Perry, Paul Schmutzok, Norm Scott, and Sarabeth Trujillo. These contributions are especially welcome after the death of one of the site’s most prolific transcribers, Michael Bellefountaine, earlier this year. The new transcripts will go online in the coming weeks.
Digitizing the tape collection has been a goal of this website for several years. We have long recognized the need for numerous reasons: more immediate access to the material; an increasingly accessible and convenient format; more widespread distribution of the material; and perhaps most important, preservation of the record in a permanent format. We are deeply indebted to both Shannon Howard and Greg Sawtell for initiating this project. We hope to have more than 100 of the tapes – most of which have already been transcribed, but a few which have not – on the site within a few months.
With a few notable exceptions, the articles on the Personal Reflections page have been written at the request of the editors of the jonestown report, and we appreciate every single entry to this ever-growing and diverse collection of perspectives. We also recognize that we will increase the number of voices and viewpoints if we can interview former Temple members, survivors, and relatives.
This coming year, then, will see a number of entries on the new “Voices of Jonestown” page. These entries will include original interviews conducted by this website, as well as links to interviews which appear online at other locations.
Examples of the latter include printed interviews of four U.S. Embassy officials who were in Guyana during Jonestown’s lifetime. U.S. Ambassador John R. Burke, former Deputy Chief of Mission Wade Matthews, Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer, and former Consular Chief Richard McCoy were all interviewed by The Association of Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs as part of an oral history project, and all four spoke extensively about their perceptions of Peoples Temple, Jonestown, and the people who died there in November 1978. (The interviews appear here; once you arrive at this page, go to the box on the left and type in the full name of the embassy official. An article summarizing the Burke interview appears here.)
Recent interviews include an mp3 file interview with Jim Jones Jr. from the NPR daily news program, The World.
Over the years, the editors of this report and people on this website’s Speakers Bureau have assisted scores of students in secondary schools, colleges and universities, and graduate programs in their research into different aspects of Peoples Temple history. Beginning this year, we are publishing some of the papers which have come out of that research. The papers will also be collected and published on their own page, located at the bottom of the Articles page.
Finally, as we have noted before, we recognize that a site this size will have errors, and we do our best to correct them, which is why we invite you to contact us if you come across a mistake, especially as it relates to the people on the death list. In addition, we invite you to write us with any contextual information you might have, whether it’s about an uncaptioned photograph or an incomplete tape summary.
– Rebecca Moore and Fielding M. McGehee III