The story below is an excerpt from our Sept./Oct. 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
Shane Simmons, right, stands with John VanArsdall.
The Appalachian Project, a multimedia venture founded by Virginia natives Shane Simmons and Jason Barton, uses technology to link Appalachia’s past, present and future. The project was initially conceived as a documentary; Simmons and Barton wanted to showcase the rich heritage that makes the Appalachian region unique by interviewing elderly Appalachians who have lived through booms and busts, and who offer insights into modern Appalachian culture.
When asked what has changed most in their lifetime, Simmons expected his interview subjects to mention technology.
“It’s almost never that,” he says. “It’s almost always interactions with people, how people don’t come by and visit with you as much as they used to.” Simmons established a Facebook page to generate interest in the film, but soon found that TAP’s social media presence had taken on a life of its own—at last count, the page had nearly 16,000 followers from 44 countries. The founders are now working on two books to complement the project. Simmons hopes that in the future, TAP can also serve as a platform to promote the talented musicians and artisans of the region.
To follow the project, visit facebook.com/AppalachianProject.