While over 800,000 people live in Jacksonville, how many really know about its history? Three Jacksonville locals and historians are making it their mission to share the story of Jacksonville with their fellow citizens.

Bryan Higham, 30, Josh Salestrom, 39, and Peter Thomas Jr., 30, are the creators of One Spark project No. 22016, “Every Community has a Story” History Through Technology. Through modern technology they want to share Jacksonville’s history and get people engaged in an unconventional way.

The team believes that presenting Jacksonville’s history through modern technology will make people become more interested. They also believe that giving people the power to choose what, when and how much they want to learn will help drive engagement.

“The easiest way for individuals to engage and interact with history is on their own personal level,” Thomas said. “You spark the interest and then you give them the opportunity to engage it in their own way.”

The trio’s goal is to create an app that will provide historical tours throughout Jacksonville which people can take at their leisure. These tours will cover a variety of historical topics that affected Jacksonville such as the Spanish-American War and civil rights. The team also wants to include a feature that will alert people when they are near historically significant sites for people who don’t want a structured tour and just want to wander the city.

Jacksonville

They also want to create what they call an “interactive personal history matrix.” This website will be a database of information that the team has researched, collected and assembled on Jacksonville’s history. It will also serve as a place where people can put their own stories and experiences from the past and present, thereby expanding and continuing the story of Jacksonville.

“It’s as much about community as it is history,” said Salestrom. “It’s about trying to encourage people … to become engaged with their fellow citizens and have a better understanding of who they live amongst and what their community is.”

As the name implies, the three creators said they believe that every community has its own unique story in history, and Jacksonville is no exception.

“Every community does have a story, no matter how big, no matter how small,” Salestrom said. “There’s an infinite number of interesting things that have happened in every small town, big city [and] neighborhood in America and the world.”

“We’re not that different from St. Augustine or Charleston or Savannah,” Higham added. “We have a rich history people just don’t know about. That’s the only difference.”
The trio said they believe that people really are interested in Jacksonville’s history, however.

In 2013 Higham and Salestrom took a similar project focused on Jacksonville’s musical history to the inaugural One Spark. It began as a school project at University of North Florida in a Southern history course with Dr. James Broomall.

The class project was to create a podcast walking tour about some aspect of Jacksonville’s public history. Higham and Salestrom, along with classmate Anthony Rossodivito, focused on music history. The podcast turned into an idea for mobile app when Highman and Salestrom decided to take their project to One Spark.

“It’s above and beyond what I want[ed them] to do in the class, but they did it,” said UNF assistant professor of Southern and public history Broomall. “It’s a pretty unique story.”

Jax Beach

At One Spark Higham and Salestrom spoke with many people about Jacksonville’s history outside of music history. They said that many people came up to them to share what they knew and were intrigued to learn more.

“How many times did we hear that?” Salestrom asked Higham when talking about their One Spark 2013 experience. “’I had no idea!’”

That feedback showed them that Jacksonville’s history was something important to many people. From that experience Higham and Salestrom realized that there was much more they needed to share about Jacksonville’s history aside from its musical history.

“I think that was the moment we realized,” said Higham, “that we’ve got a lot more here than just five stops on a music history tour.”

With Thomas on board they are returning to One Spark 2015 after spending two years developing their new concept. They have incorporated their own business, Epoch History Technologies, and have done a great deal of research and writing for this project. The project itself is currently in the pre-launch startup phase.

This year at One Spark the team is seeking $25,000 for startup costs including securing patents for intellectual property and app development. The trio said that their main goal was to find someone to collaborate with for developing the app in particular.

The project will be located at the Barnett Bank Building venue near Hemming Park and the three creators are thrilled to be participating again.

“One Spark is a brilliant, brilliant thing for Jacksonville,” Salestrom said, “and we’re just really thrilled to be a part of it again.”

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By: Kyle Dodd