Some Preservation Ramblings

I found our readings in Norman Tyler’s book this week to be incredibly helpful, so much so that It should be required reading for someone going into the public history field. No matter what you will run into terms such as “Section 106” review, and it wasn’t until reading this book that I feel like I have a decent understanding of what it is. I also find that grass roots groups and property owners tend to name-drop emphasis the National Register of Historic Places to defend the significance of a site. I thought Tyler did a great job of demonstrating that the NRHP doesn’t fully protect historic places.

I’ve always found the subject of “facadism” fascinating. It really brings into question the true purpose of historic preservation. If you ask yourself what is the point of protecting or preserving a historic structure or district, then that would dictate the methods in which you preserve something. If you remove everything but a building façade, does that mean the external architecture is the only reason the site is important? It seems to me that if you preserve only a façade, then the true purpose of that project would be to maintain a sense of place from the outside. This makes something like the “Red Lion Row” in Washington, D.C. ridiculous.

A perfect example of facadism here in Boise is the Mode building (which was discussed in the PreservationNation article on endangered Boise). That building was saved and maintained, but mainly on the outside which is interesting because the building is valued for what was inside, such as the Tea Room and the state of the art display functions. I wrote a pretty comprehensive history of the Mode (and some nearby buildings) for a class and a publication a few years ago, and the story is pretty interesting to follow.

In closing, I wanted to remind the class that we spend time in one of those “endangered” parts of Boise each week – the 1000 block of Main Street, which includes the Alaska Building/Center on Main is included in the article.

Eisenman’s Arrow

I found the readings this week really worked well together to introduce preservation and apply it to areas of Boise that have yet to be preserved.  I have always taken for granted the politics behind preservation and the various arguments for or against preservation of various buildings or historic districts; why shouldn’t we just preserve everything?  While the readings gave a lot of insight for and against preservation of different historic landmarks I was able to fully understand both sides of the debate.

I read the “Preservation Nation: What’s Endangered in Boise?” blog post first, followed by Historic Preservation, and then reread the blog post (I am usually not this much of an over achiever).  On my first read through the blog post I was ready to preserve all eleven things cited for Boise, but after reading the book, I became a little more discriminating.  I agreed with the blog that many of the areas seemed to have a lot of history and were worth preserving.  However, I struggled to feel any angst about losing the University Inn or the Sambo/Tepanyaki steakhouse.  The blog did not give a compelling argument for preserving either, beyond the fact that they were old (University Inn) or that they were unique architecturally (Tepanyaki), which does not seem sufficient.

Historic Preservation also did a great job of articulating the different options for those that wanted to preserve historic buildings or areas.  I like the idea of letting a building age naturally without updating this.  It reminded me of a hotel in Silver City, ID that still doesn’t have electricity and has not actually been updated since its mining days and I loved seeing the progression it has made in the last hundred years.  However, this does not always seem to be a practical solution, so I liked the idea of maintaining the façade of the building but updating the interior.  This type of preservation seemed the most applicable to Boise’s downtown area and one the best compromises between history and practical business concerns.  Eisenman’s arrow eloquently portrayed this idea of contextualism and historic buildings as moving on a continuum rather than fixed on one spot in time.

Pertaining to Preservation

While the reading selections for this week were not the most engaging reading, they did provide a nice break from the Lukian style of weeks past. I found parts of the history of preservation fascinating. One thing I especially liked was the was the description of preservation in the antebellum period. The focus on preserving buildings for patriotic purposes was fascinating. I wonder how much the emphasis on preserving sites connected to great men or events in our past can be connected to the veneration of saints and holy places in Europe. While the Catholic church was a minority throughout much of the antebellum their was still a tendency to deify elements of our nations past – especially the founding fathers. The tendency to canonize our nations founders was especially true of George Washington who was often portrayed as a divinely appointed emissary.

The agitation of the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association is a good example of what might be termed an American ‘cult of the saints.’ The founding fathers–and especially Washington–had already been baptized into the narrative of our nations sacred history and mission. The Mt. Vernon Ladies Association–which seems to have been part of the broader evangelical reform movement–took the step of not only canonizing Washington, but of also extending his sainthood to his place of residence.

Historic Preservation and Livability

I just have some random musings about the reading this week and the role that historic preservation plays in making cities more livable. The theme that I pulled out is that historic preservation has the most influence on the local level, and it is the only place that protection can be effectively regulated. It is also the only level that can provide the most economical and environmental benefits to the community. Several sources are beginning to rediscover that historic preservation is important to the local economy, as well as the cultural tourism economy. The new ‘green’ initiative (well new to some but it can be traced back to the 1960s) is beginning to discover historic preservation as part of the key to combat sprawl and save natural resources. Many historic buildings were designed with their environment in mind and took advantage of natural sunlight and heating and cooling techniques, making them as efficient as any other building, minus the new LEED certified buildings. For a resource of ‘green’ historic buildings, go to, click on History, and then go to Tours and Maps. There is a walking tour brochure about historic buildings downtown that use geothermal heat. 
In addition to this, I just want to comment on the BAP post about buildings in danger here in Boise. BAP’s work plays an important role in garnering local support for historic preservation. It takes almost an entire community to preserve their historic character, and it takes constant education and outreach to build the type of support needed to get required ordinances and partnerships in place that can assist. Education plays such  a crucial role in this mix because you first have to have the community find value in the buildings before they will be passionate enough to fight for preservation. If we can continue to build local support, then the cultural tourism economy in Boise can begin to florish because we will have intact historic districts that are lively and contribute greatly to the local sense of place.

Life Preserver

I’ve always been interested in historic preservation and was thrilled when we were assigned this book. So far it has been an excellent introduction into the field and has provoked quite a bit of thought.

At first I was slightly taken aback when in chapter one there was a brief discussion about Clem Labine and his “seminal article from 1979 titled ‘Preservationists Are Un-American’” (12). While I think Labine was slightly over top in his rhetoric, there is some merit behind what he is saying about our society’s mentality. I agree that culturally, some Americans abide by the traditional “pioneer way…to use it up [and] throw it out” (12). I often find myself fighting tooth and nail with Parks and Recreation with their seemingly never-ending desire to tear down historically relevant structures to put in a skate park. It’s not a threat; it is a promise when I tell them I will chain myself to the Jensen Farm House if they attempt to tear it down. (After all, my mother promised the same thing to protest nuclear submarines first arriving at Bangor Base in Silverdale, Washington. Ironically, her future husband and my father, was working on those same nukes she was protesting, thus exemplifying my strange childhood.) Nevertheless, chapter one brought to light the frame of mind some Americans have to look only to our future, while not sufficiently consulting the past.

I also thought the section of the differing philosophies of preservation was fascinating. The discussion cemented my wanting to research into the different philosophies and contrasting two for my final paper. I think the research will prove beneficial in defining my own preservation philosophy and also provide an avenue to find the philosophy that best suits my thesis project.

I also found the terminology of all the preservation political entities at the local, state, and federal levels as well as their roles were extremely helpful for anyone attempting or thinking about getting funding for a project.


Are we a Preservation Nation?

This topic makes it hard to pick a side, at the moment. After reading the chapters in the book (and skimming a bit), I can understand the arguments of he majority of the people mentioned, contradictory though they may be. In the very beginning of the book, when Clem Labine is quoted as writing “Preservationists are Un-American,” ummm… He explains he reasoning well in his argument, however the whole thing seemed just a tad dramatized; perhaps it’s just the terminlology used, such as “preservationist oppose the conventional American idea of consuming ever more….we are the the wave of pioneers.” It felt a little like a Western. Or one of those movies where you leave feeling like you can conquer the world.
I very much enjoyed the Shakespearean ideals of “The past is prologue,” and breaking apart the word ~preserve~ in order to evalute its ‘deeper meaning.’ The idea of seeing buildings as verbs provided a really great visual; I started picturing buildings that were known for something when it was built, though it may be used for something else now; example: Turnerverein Building.
The argument between Eugene Emmanuel Voillet-le-Duc and Paul Leon is what really got me thinking. Voilett-le-Duc was interested not only in preserving the buildings that told stories of the past, but perhaps building them as the were meant to be. Leon saw preservation as more of an insult to the architects of the past, and the signatures the generations that came before left on a place. Ruskin felt the same, yet seemingly a bit more angered by the thought of preservation. While I agree that a building’s “glory is in its age,” comparing preservation to botox it an odd argument to make.
Admittedly, I have never been able to identify a building’s architectural style by the design of the columns or the font used at the entrance. If I looked at it and concentrated, it would probably come to me, but I wouldn’t be the first person to ask the style of something. The bad part about not being able to identify a building’s style is that it hinders my ability to evaluate when it was built–separate from its surroundings. If compared to other sites that have known information, etc., I would be able to do so; but alas, architectural dating on the spot is not my forte. This means it takes me longer (unless the date is on the building) than some others to place it in the needed historical context to evaluate its importance and usability then and now, much like the Timberline kids did with the BAP. There were some things I would have liked to see, but there is always another year, and they followed the criteria quite well!
For someone who skims I tend to write a lot.
The end.

After some thought…

I grow ever more annoyed with Timothy Luke’s chapter on botanical gardens. I had originally written a post about his treatment of the Holocaust museums, but I decided (after our class discussion) that his thoughts about the gardens particularly bothered me. He argues that “they are historically variable constructs that serve the cultural needs of variously evolving museum institutions and their audiences.” (p.126) This I agree with. Botanical Gardens are variable depending on when they were established and how they were curated over time, and they do serve cultural needs. Where I start to have one of those “eyebrow raising” moments comes when he starts going into the first/second nature arguments, and says “a spectatular image image of nature is fabricated,” and “rare plants can be cast as…an always abundant nature in artifice.” (127)

My problems with these statements come from the fact that it seems that Luke is leaving out something quite important to any cultural institution– the Mission Statement. Any institution with a mission statement is going to be working within it (if it isn’t, there’s other issues that need to be addressed.). He seems to believe that if someone wants to see nature, they should just go into the thick of things and see real nature. That, however, isn’t the mission of these gardens. Some places have a mission that only includes local flora. Other places, like so many Japanese gardens, is to promote well-being and ethnic understanding.

Luke seems to only present one side of the story when it comes to these locations. He doesn’t take into account that the whole goal of many of these cultural places is to transport someone to a different place and/or time, which would be impossible to do without the proper tools. While he seems to enjoy looking at museums, he is severely limited by his exclusion of evidence that doesn’t seem to fit into his highly critical and political scope.

Luke, Chapter 3- Holocaust Museum

I suppose my problem with Luke’s critique of the Holocaust Museum’s “entertainment” side is that he discredits a form of publication based on the fact that it is also entertaining. In the field I want to be in, documentary filmmaking, it is understood that while history is important, its value is negligible if no one cares. I agree that media can trivialize an event. It happens in the news all the time. But it also has the ability to make it come alive. To many people history is a dead thing. It is something that occurred in the past and is thus of little consequence now. But media allows the historian to bridge this gap. If you can show someone a concentration camp and let them hear the stories of survivors, in their own voices, than maybe you can inspire them to care. And I believe that is the role of the Holocaust Museum. Yes, the Holocaust occurred in Europe. But atrocities, and mass death, are not a solely European thing. It is a human thing, and I think the Holocaust Museum allows us to examine that side of human nature and history is a way that not only provokes thought but also gets people to truly listen.

Denying History

For the second week in a row, the reading provokes me to recall Intro to the Study of History…. Dr. Walker would be proud.

Chapter 3 in this week’s reading focuses on a similar aspect of political correctness that was the focus of last week’s discussion on the Enola Gay. How can you properly pay homage to an event that was so devastating for an entire nation, and is still recent enough in our history to raise concerns about offending direct decedents, or those who actually experienced the atrocities. I will not focus on that, though… (as I’m sure it’s going to be a popular blog subject)

My focus for this analysis is in the role history deniers play in the public’s perception of an event such as the Holocaust. An overwhelming majority of the global population acknowledges the Holocaust had happened, and with little dispute to the facts and figures attributed to the event. However, a small percentage of individuals claim that this never happened. These people are a part of a larger group known as ‘historical deniers’, and can also range from those who think that 9/11 was an inside job or other conspiracy theories involving national or global events.

A popular notion is that history is written by the victors. While true in the case of the Enola Gay and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there weren’t any true ‘winners’ in the Holocaust; the Jews were submissive, and the Nazis eventually surrendered. This is one of the truly tragic events that require a great deal of care when telling the story. Because of the timidness of the event itself, this leaves room for deniers to gain a sense of proof in their claims.

Deniers not only hold lectures, write books, and appear on the news and talk shows, but they also influence pop culture. Controversial images can be seen in art work and other mediums, such as music. A group that seems to embody the historical denier stance in regards to the Holocaust is the pop duet, Prussian Blue. This set of fraternal twins of Aryan descent sing largely about white supremacy, but also recall a history that they not only didn’t live, but also likely were taught a distorted view from like-minded individuals. Even their name, ‘Prussian Blue’, is referring to the blueish residue left in the gas chambers by the chemical Zyklon B, of which history deniers claim that the lack of this residue in the chambers prove that this execution style never took place. Rather than looking at the large picture, such as the millions of Jews who went ‘missing’ during this era, they find miniscule details and attempt to discredit the case of scholarly Historians.

My hope in bringing this up, is to reaffirm the point that history is largely bias. When reading a text, listening to a lecture, or viewing an exhibit, keep in mind that both the original event or document as well as the analysis were written by people – and by nature, people are bias to their own cause. While our case may sound sane and correct, there will always be someone out there who views it differently. Who knows, we may be the crazy ones who are out of touch with society. Even us noble Historians…

Mobile Public History Project Plan


Group Members:


Angie Davis

Clete Edmunson

Ellen Matthew

Jena Herriott

Tentative Name for the Project:


The River Street Neighborhood: Changes in the Physical and Cultural Landscape 1890-1970

Learning Objectives:

 The area known today as River Street refers to the area north of the Boise River between 9th /Capitol and 15th and extends to what is now Myrtle. Between the years 1890 and 1970 the physical landscape has changed dramatically. This fact, in itself, tells a story of economic and cultural change in the City of Boise.

This project will discuss the transition of the neighborhood from its original owners, individuals including Tom and Julia Davis, whose land lies directly across Ninth/Capitol from River Street (for which Julia Davis Park is named), A.G. Miller, and John McLellan, a homesteader who established his home along the north side of the Boise River in 1863. McLellan also established the Ferry to cross the river (I believe this is where the old Ninth Street Bridge is now), and he soon began subdividing his land into the neighborhood which we now refer to as the River Street area.

By tracing these physical transitions we can trace the local cultural, economic, and political transitions as well. This project will help understand how cultural identities are constructed through the physical landscape, how the political environment influences the social structure of a city, and how a review of these relationships can expose the hierarchy of power within a growing city. It is clear that River Street became a designated living space for the working class as the railroad moved into town, leaving River Street physically separated from the city south of the tracks. This “catch-all” phrase, working-class, includes immigrants, ethnic minorities, and any other transient populations hoping to move up the social ladder.

Why was this neighborhood important then and why is its history important?

Inspiration for the Project:

 Inspiration for the project began with an interest in the River Street neighborhood and African Americans living in the community. Some members in the group were familiar with several African American oral histories and had an interest in learning more. Angie also interned at the Idaho Historic Library and transcribed oral histories. Some topics of interest include; community life, segregation, racism, economic opportunities, and push-pull factors of moving in and out of the community. Our group is also focusing on how the River Street neighborhood has changed or evolved from 1890-1970. After several discussions our group decided to expand on our topic and focus on the working class community in the River Street neighborhood, instead of only African Americans.


Similar Existing Projects:


The digital component of the project will use Omeka, which will include; photos, sound, oral history interviews, maps, information about River Street, and links to local museums. An advantage of Omeka is that it will be user friendly, accessible, and photos and sound will be high quality. A continuing activity that may also be included is the use of a walking tour of River Street with an app. The app may expand upon some free podcasts that provide audio or visual walking tours. Some websites that provide free access include:,, and These apps would be great for the project because they may include sound to inform a visitor, or display a map to direct visitors to a specific building or area. Liabilities with the use of either Omeka or an app, is that we have to learn to use the technology and how to best implement that technology with our project. An additional liability could be that the technology may be time intensive to learn, and the plan of our project may need to be modified.

Benefits of Using this Technology:


By delivering this history through a digital medium, we allow users to create their own experience, enriched through a visual, audible, and otherwise interactive platform. The Omeka platform serves this purpose, enabling a pre-packaged experience at the user’s convenience. But it also has the potential to deliver a personally engaging historical tour of a largely ignored section of Boise City. As mobile technology is becoming widely available, Omeka has made a point of utilizing this technology, and in that way we can also deliver a mobile experience as well. This first-person experience will take place as the user, who resides in the present, has the past delivered, in digital form, to their mobile device. We can enrich each of these experiences with photos, maps, and oral histories, making the journey as complete as possible.

Resources Needed to Complete the Project:

A list of 6 individuals/families we want to highlight

Research on political and economic forces causing change

Research for incidental information about neighborhood


Books about Boise

Dissertation by Pam Demo

Paper by John Bertram

Newspaper articles


Instruction about Omeka

Anticipated Challenges:

The River Street Neighborhood was a place that members of our group knew little about. We decided to do some initial information gathering to determine if we had chosen a good subject for our project. Happily, one challenge became quickly apparent when we met as a group to work on our plan. We discovered a wide range of information covering more than a century of the neighborhood’s history. We not only have to define our focus, we have to keep it and not get distracted by all the other information we would love to include. We have the challenge of keeping the project at a workable size for the time period in which we have to complete it. Our group also hopes learn and use Omeka. This technology is new to everyone in the group and we anticipate extra time needed for learning and implementing Omeka all at once. We decided we would store our initial work in Powerpoint. As with all group work, we will have to decide which parts of the project require meeting together and what we can do individually.


March 13-19- Research and collecting information

Tracking down hand scanner

March 20-26 – Narrative outline writing

March 27-April 2 (Spring Break) Start Powerpoint file

April 3-9 Work on Omeka

April 10-16 Trips to Museums, private collections, interviews

April 17-23 Compile findings and information

April 24-30 Finalize ideas

April 1-7 Edit project

Write paper