"What does this historic moment look like where you live?" cultural historian Matthew Frye Jacobson of Yale University wanted to know. He took a 12-month sabbatical in 2009 and 2010 and traversed the country by plane, train, and automobile, stopping in New York, New Orleans, Boulder, and Berkeley, among other places. Like a 21st-century Studs Terkel or Dorothea Lange, Jacobson took thousands of photographs and interviewed unemployed workers, artists, a hedge fund manager, a judge, and dozens of others.
Lifting a phrase from President Obama's 2009 inaugural address, Jacobson named the project "Our Better History" and posted it on his website, Historian's Eye. His gritty photos, recorded interviews, and transcripts span the fallout of the recent economic collapse, the BP oil spill, emerging anti-Muslim feelings, two wars, and the politics of health-care reform, immigration, and anti-Obama sentiment.