Local grad launching history website, with support of acclaimed film maker
A civil engineer with local ties and his business partner want to put history on a virtual globe and invite the world to comment.
Think of it as a Wikipedia-style website for world history, said Ken Burns, the renowned film maker who is also a vocal supporter of the project.
Jon Martinez, who grew up here, and Jesus Salazar, who grew up in Manassa, are co-founders of the new site, ChronoScribe.com, which is currently under construction.
ChronoScribe means time writer, but it also references Chronos, the Greek personification of time who was also the father of Zeus, Martinez said.
When completed, the site will index history by time and location on a virtual globe that allows people to access and contribute in private or public posts, he said.
“We both truly believe that if everyone knew their history just a little better, that we would make more informed, and likely better decisions for our future together on this planet,” Martinez said.
Burns said Wednesday he is busy now working on eight different movies, but happily lends his name to the project and has videotaped promotional spots in support.
“First of all, it’s very clear ... Americans don’t know much about their own history,” Burns said. “I’ve spent my whole life as an evangelist for how important it is to understand the past, not for its own sake, but so you can understand where you are, and more importantly, where you’re headed.”
ChronoScribe is a way for people to focus their attention in a “very, very cool way” on all aspects of history, including what President Harry Truman said, for example, Burns said.
“The only thing that’s really new is the history you don’t know,” he said, quoting Truman.
The site is designed to allow visitors to look at history in the context of their own experience in the locations where they live, Burns said.
“Allowing people to view history in a more personalized way and offering a more objective format for recording and sharing events from the past are some hallmarks of our mission,” Martinez said.
PROJECT SELF-FUNDED FOR NOW
So far, ChronoScribe has been funded through Martinez’ and Salazar’s personal savings and lines of credit, and the project is two years in the making.
“We have also brought on a few family and friends as initial investors. We started with less than $100,000,” Martinez said.
The money was used to get some initial design, framework, and runway set up that will help build the site. The money is also being used to launch a planned Indiegogo fundraiser on June 18, but that date could be pushed back, he said.
ChronoScribe has a goal of raising $500,000 or more through the crowdfunding mechanism. It has 60 days to do it under Indiegogo rules.
“Indiegogo is where we hope to get the remaining support and funds that we would need to launch the first phase of the website,” Martinez said.
The duo realized their initial budget of $3.5 million would have to be scaled back for the crowdfunding effort. Premiums for those who donate will include enhanced access to the site. Major donors of $50,000 or more will get dinner with Burns, Martinez said.
FOUNDER HAS LOCAL TIES
Martinez graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1997. He still has plenty of family spread across the city. Uncles Rick and Adam Diaz help coach softball and wrestling at GJHS.
“I was a wrestler, and that was able to get me into the Colorado School of Mines,” where he earned degrees in civil engineering and economics. He said he retired from engineering to work on ChronoScribe full time.
Salazar, Martinez’ college roommate, is a designer of large scale websites for Cedera in Denver. He is a sixth-generation Coloradan who is related to the politically connected Salazars, Ken and John.
“I am a father of three young boys and made a switch from civil engineering consulting to get this project going, honestly with the goal and hopes of making a real difference ... in order to leave the world a better place for future generations to come,” Martinez said.
Martinez and Salazar are working to connect with schools and museums to build support for the project.
They also plan to create a college- accredited program for historians. One museum already licensed the site to use materials from its archive.
Some content will be user-generated. Some content will be purchased from other sources like history-related video games “Civilization” and “Age of Empires.”
“It is important for us to become, and to remain, a useful tool for students and teachers alike,” Martinez said. “We are off to a great start and are excited to expand soon.”