Illinois State Historical Society

Here’s my table in the “exhibitor area” during the recent ISHS Symposium in Carbondale, Illinois in late April. Sold a dozen DVD’s and enjoyed visiting with everyone – made some great new contacts and reestablished a few from the past. The DVD Quiet Acres was shown the day before to a very small crowd – four people. I understand another video presentation had only five viewers.

Oh well, I’d like to believe historical society members attending a symposium have better things to do than watch a video – especially if it’s a video they can watch at home.


Wilkinson DVD re-released

I’ve re-released the DVD known as the Search for Wilkinson and it’s now for sale on my website for $9.00. Eventually, I’d like to sell it through iTunes and bypass paper and postage.

The Search for Wilkinson is the first documentary I produced following my career in television news. I was new to the style of production and it shows. No music, minimal graphics, cut only edits and a handful of very quaint special effects. When I re-issued it, I did upgrade the graphics, a little. And I was tempted to insert music here and there – but decided not to. Would the music help advance the story – probably not. I do wish I had used a different narrator – so if there was something I could change – that would be it.

During its production, I learned an incredible amount about archaeology from Mark Wagner, who is featured in the documentary. As his investigation unfolds he doesn’t hold back anything and explains everything. It is fascinating stuff!

Wilkinson was a labor of love and that’s why I offer it for such a reduced price. I’d give it away, but I can’t, right now. Maybe I will in the future. If you love archaeology, early American history and Illinois history, you’ll really enjoy this project.

To buy a copy – click here.


Please take one minute and visit the blog/website for Carol Crisp, the cemetery enumerator from Pope County, Illinois.  Carol appears in the documentary Earth, Stone & Memories. You can actually view her segment online at and click on the video link in the menu. Carol is a rare spirit who has provided an invaluable service to everyone interested in history and genealogy – and she does it for all the right reasons. She’ll never get rich doing what she does. If you like what you see, and find a reason to own a copy of one of her books, please send her a check and show your support.

Website Updated

I’d like to extend an invitation to anyone who stumbles onto these words to check out the changes to my business website:

You’ll find some brand new page called “work” and it contains links to ORM’s work on client websites. I’ve also included multiple links to various news stories about my work. I’m excited to offer the full interview I did with WJPF Radio about the Herrin, Illinois basketball project.

Eventually, I plan to offer a few things for sale in the store, including a DVD about the archaeological excavations at a military camp located in present-day Pulaski County, Illinois in 1800. I’m also planning to re-edit the videotape I have of the Reconstruction of Fort Massac. I’d like to offer both DVDs for a very low price and develop teacher resources for both.

Happy new year to everyone.

Earth, Stone & Memories – on sale …

Earth, Stone & Memories – a documentary about our passion with historic cemeteries is now available for sale: As the website explains, proceeds from the sale of the DVD benefit the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone and its community and economic development programs.

The documentary focuses on historical burial grounds and cemeteries and their development through time. Historians, archaeologists, and genealogists offer insight into the types of stone used, motifs and cemetery layout and other changes we see when we visit an old cemetery.

My hope is that this documentary inspires and motivates you to learn and do more in regard to historic cemeteries. Maybe you’ll discover an old burial ground in need of upkeep. Or perhaps you’ll find a historic section that needs to be inventoried and photographed and deposited in a local library.

The website also includes classroom handouts and projects. Additional materials will be forthcoming as we transcribe the bonus segments.

Some organizations interested in restoring an old cemetery may want to view the DVD to learn more about the state requirements before they do the work.

After writing and directing this project, I can tell you that historic cemeteries affect all of us in different ways. I know one woman who “feels” and “hears” things when she visits a cemetery and walks among the old stones. “That white one over there was speaking out to me,” she said to me last spring. Another stone projects an evil vibe, she commented.

My cemetery experiences are far less interesting. A deer snorted and stomped in my direction when I walked too close to a wooded area in the Beech Grove Cemetery in Mounds, Illinois. I couldn’t see the animal, but I got the message. A second deer-experience in the West Eden Cemetery – after dark – was a little unnerving because it was AFTER DARK IN A CEMETERY.

To me, the typical historic cemetery gives me a good reason not to think about myself. I find myself reading the headstones and putting that person’s life in context. I am also a visual thinker – so an old cemetery in the middle of the summer with the cicadas vibrating in the trees stirs my soul in ways I cannot express in words. Watch the DVD and hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

Take care.


Mound City National Cemetery
Mound City, Illinois

The cold rungs of the metal ladder cramped the palm of my right hand as I climbed to the top of the memorial. It was also wet and slippery from the morning fog. I was told not to look down as I moved closer to the top. I recalled one worker’s attempt to reassure me with a comment about his 80 year old grandfather. “He climbs much taller memorials,” he told me.

It wasn’t a long climb; only 55 feet with the last 40 or so up a single ladder with a protective cage around it. I guess that cage would give you a second chance if you slipped. As you fell, you’d be able to catch yourself. You’d get a nasty bruise or maybe even a broken or dislocated arm as you hooked yourself on that cage.

Gravity gives second chances for a price.

I stepped onto the shaky platform and made eye contact with her. She stands nine feet and faces west. Huge hands hold the implements of war – a sword in the right and a shield on the left. Her bare left foot rests on a large book. She’s dressed in a flowing garb stained from the tons of grit kicked up from ten thousand storms. On this day, she would get a delicate make-over. Nothing too dramatic, the mason conservator told me. Just a rinse to remove black grit that could damage the Italian marble. The greenish tint would stay. She’d still look her age, although no one is certain what it might be.

Illinois built the Civil War monument in 1875 at a cost of $25,000.00.  Large marble tablets list the known burials according to state or boat. One panel lists “miscellaneous” and includes the name of “Mrs. H. Lutz, Matron”.  I’d love to know her story. Beautifully carved likenesses of a soldier and sailor adorn the memorial at the lower level where the column rises.

I know from my research at the National Archives the monument was last restored in 1900. I’ve heard a story that the original liberty was damaged at some point and the one I met is a replacement. The story says the original lady Liberty was dropped and that she had to be replaced – that was in the 1960s.

This statue is the focal point of so much of my photography, assuming I have the right lens. I captured a sunset image of her with a very large lens I rented from B and L Photo in Carbondale, Illinois.  That image appears on the cover of the brochure I developed for the Mound City National Cemetery Preservation Commission. Otherwise, few people seem to be aware of the statue at the top of the memorial.

At that level, it is easy to imagine you’re elevated in a heavenly perch above the clouds.  Earth appears dreamlike, an unreal world where the dead exist in a state of perpetual honor – watched over and protected by Liberty – and the object of all those sacrificed lives at rest below.


I first learned about this term as a television news producer working for a local PBS station. While sitting around in various meetings, we were told about the need to “prove our performance” once we finished a grant-funded project. The bottom line was to prove to those who provided the funding that their money worked. As I recall, the standard technique was to write a long report with embedded spreadsheets in a style an auditor could review and approve.  Because this was a television station, video often accompanied whatever paperwork we sent.

I recently videotaped a health conference with various speakers – interesting, relevant stuff, to be sure. I edited each presentation and then developed a two-DVD set in a standard case with a nice cover. I hope the discs will be set out to potential users as well as the speakers.

I also hope the funders for the health conference will get a few copies of the DVD to use as evidence that their money worked. What better way to prove the performance of their investment than through a colorful, professionally produced DVD!

Perhaps I’m a bit obvious in what I’m talking about – that such communication tools as a DVD can go far to showcase your work. If such a need exists for you or your organization, why focus on speeches and indoor activities? Why not move the camera around and capture a wide variety of content? If your group provided scholarships to a dozen students,why not follow those kids around and videotape them attending class and talking about the scholarship and how it has made their dreams come true?

It would be easy to write for another several paragraphs, but I think – and hope – you get the point. Text and photographs – even websites – are wonderful tools. But video can do so much more by helping the viewer make an emotional connection to whatever message you’re trying to get across.

If the goal is to prove your performance, what better way than to show the results of that performance through the words and actions of real people?