$100 Startup, Historical Consultation

I found this week’s reading insightful and inspiring. Guillebeau paints a realistic presentation of life as a self-employed go-getter. I agree with the overall argument that the traditionally accepted “stable” jobs are quickly becoming the volatile option. State and Federal agencies constantly suffer budget cuts and non-permanent teaching positions are slowly replacing the tenured ones. Even if we choose a traditional job in the humanities, chances are it won’t pay as much as we hoped, so starting a side-project seems like a great option for extra income.

Chapter 10 really puts things in perspective. Like some of my classmates, I grew up in an an entrepreneurial house. Growing up, we (Step-dad, mom, myself and my brothers) operated a small landscaping and later general construction/remodeling business. I worked on both crews throughout high-school and college. Not wasting money and charging the customer appropriately were constant problems we had to face. It was the financial difficulties that pushed me away from entrepreneurialism towards what I thought was more stable institutional work. I still cringe at the thought of charging people for historical consultation. I don’t like taking money from people, I’d rather give away my help when I can. I think it takes skill and a right frame of mind to accurately assess what your services are worth and how much people are willing to pay you to do them.

Despite these trepidations, I think Guillebeau has some great examples of people making money doing what they love. The author shows how easy it is to start a micro-business. Obviously, since it is easy to start a modern small business, there will be many others out there with the same idea. As some of the old roadblocks become obsolete, new ones will appear. Regardless, self-employment is still an attractive option.

Creating Value

In recent years the depressed economy has created opportunity by necessity. So many people without jobs have decided that since failure is a guaranteed anyway, they might as well go out with a bang and doing something they love. It seems that it should go without saying that people will not always pay for what others love, but that point does need to be made. Chris Guillebeau did make a good point of reminding his reader of that very thing. Guillebeau’s whole message, the idea of a simple, passion-driven, micro-startup is one that should resonate with many. I was raised by a father who started and ran his own business for many of my growing up years, to a degree it was a very successful business, but as the success has faded with that business the discourse has grown in the family over how to develop a successful plan doing the things we like to do. I read Guillebeau’s book within the first couple of weeks after I received it, the first half in a single setting in bed until about two in the morning. I immediately referred my wife to read it and this past week it has been in her stack of reading. The point is that Guillebeau has written an excellent guide, not a philosophical discourse on ways of thinking about business and passion, but a hands on guide for actually doing it. While there are many who may not understand the value in Guillebeau’s suggestions, it is nonetheless a book that can increase one’s understanding of making a business succeed.


When I came to the history department, I was relatively confident that I wanted to teach and that I wanted to pursue a doctorate in the subject. As the disillusionment began to develop over the semesters, and my own life took a couple of turns, I had to face the fact that my passion was, and is, not in teaching, in the classical academic setting. Ultimately, I am working on a degree so that I can provide a living for my family and it so happens that I am passionate about history, but in a very awkward, sometimes anti-historical manner. What I have tried to develop is an understanding about the relationship between my passions for administration, hospitality, and history. The readings this week come as no surprise to me in a history course. They were written by people who have had to come to terms with the reality of the world, the reality that classic academia, while it may always exist, it fundamentally shifting and unless one has an advantage by the way of education of connection, getting the few positions that remain, is a near impossibility. The other thing that they had in common was the basic premise that one should work at what he is good at, and often what we are good at, is what we love. The difficulty becomes the indebtedness that often accompanies a degree of any sort. Such debt feels like a weight that makes it difficult to accept the possibility of making a salary on one’s own. In my own case, I feel as if I have enough debt (which is basically an economic risk) that I don’t want to take on more risk as an owner in a business. As Guillebeau pointed out, however, traditional jobs no longer provide the safe shelter that they used to.


What this all means for historians with shiny new degrees and no department or museum in which to hang their hats is either positive or negative, it comes down to philosophical positioning—do I groan and complain about a system that is saturated with workers, and not creating more jobs, and not paying for the jobs they do have? OR, do I accept the reality that those traditional jobs don’t exist anymore and grasp the opportunity that exists in other realms? I have to consider that many of the most revered universities and colleges in our country were not begun with a full staff that was offering cushy full-time positions. Maybe the situation in which we find ourselves now is an opportunity, not only to redefine who we are as historians, but what education is, how people learn and what value we offer.


I went to purchase my school books at the beginning of the semester, and I was rather confused that an entrepreneurial book was one of my required texts.  I was not particularly looking forward to the read.  As an academic historian, I know exactly what I want to do with my life.  I want to teach!  Teaching is fulfilling, always changing, and personable: everything I could ask for.  While I do not want to be a businessman and I have no desire to run a business, I did enjoy reading Chris Guillebeau’s “The $100 Startup.”   The book was informative, inspirational, and accessible.  Unlike many texts assigned in academia, this text was simple and to the point.  Guillebeau’s enthusiasm drenches every page; he truly wants to help people start their own small business.  For a person that is interested in doing just that, this is a must read.  His use of real life examples, real people and real businesses, substantiates his claims.  Many “How To” books lack this depth, focusing solely on the author’s personal experiences.  Guillebeau’s discussion regarding the “knowledge economy” explained how this text fits into public history.  Many budding historians do not want to fill traditional history roles in society (teachers, museum curators, or historical bureaucrats).  It is these historians that will gain from Guillebeau’s “The $100 Startup.”  These historians need only key in on what aspect of the “knowledge economy” they wish to fulfill, and begin!  These historians have skills, and are continually gaining more skills, and these historians have interests.  What these historians need to do, according to Guillebeau, is connect these skills and interests with what other people, their potentially clients, want.  Even historians filling traditional roles (teachers, museum curators, and historical bureaucrats) can gain from Guillebeau’s basic idea; the biggest difference being that that these individuals are selling themselves (their skills and interests) in hopes of a “traditional” job and a “traditional” paycheck.

“Historians as Consultants and Contractors” explained that there are numerous things a history consultant can do, many of which we have discussed in our Public History class.  Historical consulting is a growing industry that is almost always in need of hiring professional historians for short-term contracts.  As an educator, I immediately thought about how many summer opportunities there must be for a High School History teacher!  While I might be “constrained” during the school year, I will be the definition of flexible over the summer months.  While I am still in my initial year in the Masters of Applied Historical Research program, I have already gained invaluable insights into how to bring history alive, the digital humanities, and so much more.  These skills combined with my growing interests will allow me to gain a part time position as a historical consultant whenever I so desire.  This chapter stressed the importance of complementing a history degree, and I really liked reading that.  All too often, academic readings contain such a narrow focus that interdisciplinary approaches are rarely even mentioned.

Tyler Rudd Putman’s “Crafting a New Historian” elicits deep thinking.  While Putman could be described as a typical academic, he has a Master’s Degree and he is currently pursuing his Doctoral Degree, he could also be described as an atypical academic.  After earning his Master’s Degree, he spent a year sewing clothes to make a living.  It is this year outside of the traditional academic scope that led him to figure out what he truly wants in life, what he enjoys doing, and what academia entails.  For those individuals with an exclusive view of what “doing history” entails, Putman was no longer “doing history” in the garment business.  For those with an inclusive view of what “doing history” entails, Putman never left the history field; he merely found another way to “do” history, through sewing historical clothing.  He was making a modest living, enjoying what he was doing, and had time to yearn for academic comforts like the library.  Putman states that “the cognitive overload of an academic life prevents us from being truly thoughtful,” and I would argue that there is much truth to this statement.  Many academic are confined to specific topics, are embarrassed by their hobbies, and fail to associate themselves with the real world.  I agree with Putman, “Academic historians need to spend less time in the library and more time confronting the rigorously critical world of the nonacademic public.”  This is essential for anyone hoping to work in the public history field.  Putman concludes his article with explaining numerous reasons not to get a PhD, most importantly that there is a very real possibility that he will be sewing clothes after gaining his degree.  Despite problems like these, he is currently working towards his Doctoral Degree; to say I was shocked by his decision would be an understatement.

Reflections on Entrepreneurialism

Although I have focused my academic career within the larger liberal arts curriculum, I do appreciate the private-sector world of business. Without this facet of the economy, life as we know it would cease to exist. Having said that, I also understand and appreciate the need for government-run institutions and I recognize their place within the larger economic and social context. The readings for this week reminded me that there is a very fine line between the private and public sector, however, more importantly I found myself questioning the role that history plays in terms of bridging this gap.

While most people assume that I am pursuing a degree in history in order to teach high school or in an effort to better prepare myself to fight for one of the very few history-related government positions, I am beginning to open my eyes to the possibilities of using historical methods and my own knowledge to meet the needs of small and large businesses alike. I believe that I can apply my skills as a historian (research, organization, communication, editing) to help businesses, regardless of their field or clientele, succeed. I believe that my interest in business, although limited, stemmed from my experience as a child. Growing up, my parents owned and operated their own insurance brokerage agency. My dad received his bachelor degree in business and my mom was a trained paralegal. They both put lots of time and energy into their business and enjoyed the flexibility associated with this lifestyle. Although the insurance and financial planning industry has the potential to be very lucrative, I never remember my parents talking about their business practices in those terms. My mom always said that “life insurance is about keeping promises.” It was always about the services she could provide to her clients to help them keep their promises to their business partners, friends and family. As I read The $100 Dollar Startup I realized that this people/relationship oriented approach was a central facet of Guillebeau’s argument, and one that I whole heartedly agree with.

Guillebeau described microbusiness as a “way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose” (xiv). However, he also argues that the freedom (what we are looking for) and value (the way to achieve freedom) are key themes to successful microbusiness ventures. Within this context, value equates to “helping people.” So often the general public is quick to dismiss business ventures because of the stereotypical “money hungry” persona of big business. What Guillebeau reminds us, however, is that not all business ventures meet this stereotype, and that more importantly, successful businesses do not focus all of their energies on this money making aspect. As Guillebeau’s research suggests, many microbusinesses do not follow this model and instead fall in line with a “follow-your-passion” model. However, despite the external differences between the microbusiness industry and the field of history, it is obvious that the key to being successful in either requires a sincere understanding and appreciation of people and an ability to foster lasting relationships.


Wiki Reflection

I was slightly anxious starting this assignment after our class discussing the possible misogyny I might face on the Wikipedia talks pages.  I also prefer to keep my work private rather than post it somewhere that might receive unwanted criticism.  Despite my personal hesitance, I knew exactly the topic on which I wanted to write and exactly where to get my sources.  Idaho Proposition 1 was an anti-LGBT legislation in 1994 that attempted to prohibit city or state government from granting minority status based on ‘behavior.’  For two years a group called Don’t Sign On – eventually renamed No On One – peacefully fought the Idaho Citizens Alliance who pushed the initiative into being.  It’s an important part of Idaho history and was a part of a number of anti-homosexual initiatives that took place in the 1990s through to present day.  I chose this subject because this was the very subject on which I’m creating an exhibit for the Special Archives in the Albertsons Library. I have access to newspapers that aren’t currently digitized – though I am in that process – and was therefore able to provide sources not yet available to the public thanks to a member of No On One who provided them for the Special Collections.



The subject material also fit perfectly into the requirements for both the Wikipedia article and the Boise wiki.  I decided that writing one article that was appropriate for both venues was a bit of a time saver but would also be an interesting experiment on Wikipedia.  While there were a number of separate pages for the anti-LGBT legislation that has occurred over the years, I wanted to see if the Wikipedia editors considered Idaho’s fight for homosexual rights a ‘notable’ enough subject.  I commented on the talk page of “List of US ballot initiatives to repeal LGBT anti-discrimination laws” and they told me that as long as I have the right sources then it was appropriate for the page.[1]  After spending more than the usual amount of time to find the directions to create my own Wikipedia page, I created a sandbox and submitted it for review.  A sandbox, come to find out, does not accomplish much in a short amount of time.  With no movement on the sandbox I decided to risk it and skip a few steps by creating a page and link to the Ballots page.

I checked out the other Proposals pages and copied their simple formatting.  I included the description, the history of the initiative, and some major players.  I told a couple friends I was WikiFamous and sent them the link so they could check out my work for me.  I also reworded the description of Proposition 1 on the Ballots page so that it more accurately reflected the proposition.  Three days later I noticed that my page has been reviewed by ToastyMallows who cleaned up some of the formatting.  With no trouble my page has passed review.  With all the build up, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to create a Wikipedia page that passed muster.  I don’t know if I had an easier time because I created my own page or if it was the completely lack of information on Wikipedia on the topic, but I’m happy I didn’t run into any of the problems people have before.


Boise Wiki

Having chosen a topic that was appropriate for both Wikipedia and the Boise Wiki, I wanted to make sure my original formatting would work for both locations.  Looking over the Boise Wiki I found a lack of information on Boise LGBT rights and therefore a perfect location for my article.  There didn’t seem to be a uniform format for the site so I kept the original from Wikipedia.  I currently don’t have access to digitized photographs to add to the article, but I will eventually add a number of No On One photographs of the events leading up to Election Day for Proposition 1.  The only sources available for the event, unfortunately, are the newspaper articles from Special Collections.  I searched online for sources beyond newspaper but found nothing.  With the lack of diverse articles beyond Idaho newspapers, I had to be aware of the bias presented by the articles as well as the bias of the person who preserved specific articles over others.  Purposefully keeping my descriptions as unbiased as possible, I hoped to present a consensus of information on the topic.


For future authors

Posting on the Internet for others to criticize is unnerving.  Those online purposefully spending their time looking for articles and opinions to critic are often unfriendly.  This assignment, however, brought me out of my comfort zone and forced me to put myself out there for criticism.  The lack of negative reaction, or any reaction for that matter, forced me to realize that posting online is not as difficult as it is described.  My advice for future possible posters is to simply follow the rules.  Wikipedia posts their rules and regulations for posting everywhere through their help topics.  While figuring out the language of Wikipedia is not easy, a small amount of ‘googling’ for helpful videos or walkthroughs will eventually get you posting on Wikipedia.  Having posted an article with reliable sources and information, I am reconsidering a historian’s role in online encyclopedias.  The Boise wiki, especially, deserves the influence of locals with good information.  Local wikis are helpful in a number of different venues and deserve the chance to provide for those living in or visiting the city.  Online encyclopedias and local wikis consist of consensus articles.  I would suggest not using them as sources but I truly believe they provide an appropriate starting point.  Locals, not just historians, should work to create as comprehensive of a wiki as possible.  Providing local insight on food, activities, and history can only serve to promote the area for everyone involved.






[1] The response, “Can you find enough reliable source texts to use to help you write a reasonable-length article on the legislation, covering its full evolution, debate, and effect? If so, go for it. If not, don’t. It’s that simple. All notability means is “is there enough source texts to write a decently complete and indepth article?” –Jayron32 00:01, 15 March 2013 (UTC)”

Reflections on Historic Preservation, Part 2

This week’s readings presented a thorough explanation of the approaches and methods used in historic preservation. Although some of the statements throughout the readings seemed like common knowledge, Tyler did bring up some interesting points about the process of nominating and establishing a site on the National Register of Historic Places. I found Tyler’s presentation of the “criteria” that sites need to meet in order to be considered for preservation quite useful. While I had some idea about the conditions and parameters that sites need to meet in order to be considered historically significant, I appreciated the clear and direct categorization of these requirements. I can see now see how listing and describing such criteria would greatly facilitate the national register program in selecting sites for preservation. While I found Tyler’s explanation of these standards sufficient, I do wish that he would have spent more time elaborating on the concept of “minimum levels of significance” and provided examples (139). In many regards this comment was quite troubling. I understood this situation to mean that established pro-preservation communities are destined to lose places of historic significance simply because by their own actions, they have set the bar too high. On the opposite end of the spectrum, communities that did not have the foresight to save historic buildings are now more likely to preserve places of “limited” historic significance. It seems like pro-preservation communities are being punished for their own efforts to preserve historic sites. It also seems likely that communities that lack a precedent for preservation might save more buildings now, but what are the odds that those buildings will retain their historic significance, especially in light of the fact that people outside of the immediate vicinity simply might be unaware of the presence of such sites because of the community’s anti-preservation past.


I also found the concept of “dedesignation” quite fascinating. The idea of removing the historic designation from a site was not part of my limited knowledge or previous assumptions about preservation. With so much attention given to criteria needed for designation and the long, drawn out process of designation, I wish that Tyler would have spent more time discussing the methods and processes that must be followed to dedesignate. Although he did list and explain the reasons that a site might be considered for dedesignation, he gave but one throw away sentence about the process. Tyler wrote “Though rare, the Secretary of the Interior may find it necessary to remove the designation of NHL or National Register…if they lose too much of their historic integrity” (152). Is this the only way for a site to lose designation? And if so, is this the appropriate process considering the lengthy means of being designated in the first place?

Historic Preservation, Part II

This week’s readings showed me just how much I do not know about historic preservation. It doesn’t help to begin with that my knowledge of the subject was very small to begin with. What caught my eye early on in chapter 4 was the Penn Central decision and how the author stated how “it forms the legal justification for most historic preservation ordinances” (pg. 123). To understand how historic preservation laws have both grown and stayed in existence is important for historians and many others also. We must understand how these ordinances and laws have grown and existed in order to both effectively use them and explain them to others, to the public. By this point, I think we all understand that the local and federal government is involved in historic preservation; they’ve both helped to create the laws, fund portions of historic preservation, and enforce them. The important fact that the Penn Central decision demonstrates to us is how the government is able to enforce these laws in the face of private ownership. From the Penn Central case we come to understand that historic preservation laws or ordinances are an appropriate tool used by cities to accomplish a government goal, in this instance preservation of a building. At the same time, this case shows the conflict between private owners of recognized historical sites and the government; especially private owners who fall under a more direct historical preservation ordinance. Both entities exist with their own goals in mind. One wants their revenue increased and the other wants a space saved for current and future generations. At the end they both managed to achieve their goals within the defined city ordinance. The Supreme Court upheld the historic preservation law which led to the owner of Penn Central to abandon one plan and institute another, which proved successful. Some people may view this as government stepping across some line and enforcing its will upon the private landowning citizen, but in this instance it was needed. The owner knew what kind of property Penn Central was and I am sure they were fully aware of the preservation ordinance in place; the only thing I do not know is when the station was designated as a historical site and who the owner was at the time. Penn Central demonstrates how grassroots support and historical preservation laws can help to save landmarks that are both representative of a people and time. If people look in Boise in the Basque block it’s evident. With both local support from the people and government funding/support, a piece of Boise culture has been both restored and preserved for everyone to enjoy.

Resources for March 18

Historic sites of national significance

Case study: The President’s House at Independence National Historic Park

Press release about the opening of the reinterpreted site

Archaeology Methods and Interpretation

Commentary on the interpretation of the house site (from Rhetoric and Public Affairs)

Race in the Park (from Common-Place)


News item

Gettysburg Cyclorama demolished a few weeks ago

Historic Preservation II

This week’s readings further highlighted the fact that so much of what goes on in the world of historic preservation is subjective. There are certain buildings and sites that I am sure we would all agree are significant to our larger collective history but many of the others that are preserved in the name of history, culture or impact raise questions. While Elvis Presley’s contributions to music and culture are significant, is Graceland itself really that historically significant? If Elvis had never lived there, would it still be listed as a National Historic Landmark? Are there other places in Memphis that would mean more to society?

The guidelines for historic preservation seem to remain largely subjective to the whims of historical preservation boards and even the court system. The documents from the Boise Historic Preservation Committee kept coming to mind as I read more on this section…so much back and forth over window sill depth and the matter of an inch. Additionally, historic preservation raises the thorny issues of property rights and eminent domain.

I can see the importance of adding places like the early McDonald’s to the National Register as it represents a shift in American (and global) culture as we became a more mobile society and required businesses to adapt to the changing needs of the consumer. However, as Ryan pointed out, would we make the argument to preserve the Wal-Marts, Best Buys, etc. to illustrate the architecture and culture of 2013? So many of our purchases today are made over the internet. How do we accurately preserve that for posterity?

Historic preservation is vitally important for us to not only embrace and understand our past, but also to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to interact with history. The subjective nature of the field raises concerns, however.

Thoughts on Readings March 18

Once again the readings this week were enlightening and informative, besides a few incredibly ignorant statements, (Tyler wrote that day time hours are only convenient to the unemployed, neglecting to realize that people work at night, from home, and are self-employed!), the book provides a really comprehensive overview of historic preservation, restoration, and conservation; and will undoubtedly prove to be a helpful reference in the future.
When we discuss historic preservation with folks without an historical understanding of certain places, it is important to remind them that quality transcends time, and things that are historically important may not be obvious to the casual observer. There seems to be an idea floating around that if something is old it is less useful or perhaps less aesthetically pleasing. Certain architectural styles may not be popular any longer, but that does not mean we should tear down the building for the newest and least expensive piece of architecture. This is especially true in the case of buildings that don’t have a lot of traditional aesthetic value, but are an important aspect of America’s history. Tyler discusses the first McDonalds built in the United States, which is located in Downey, California. Post-War consumerism and car culture can be referenced by old burger places like the early McDonalds, or the by the old Chow Now burger stand that used to be on Broadway and Boise Avenue. The last time I was in Downey the old McDonalds was still standing and in use, however in the mid 2000s, Chow Now was replaced by office buildings. I believe historians have a greater role in helping to preserve these types of buildings, since they may be perceived as lacking historical value.

Another discussion brought up by the author that I feel is relevant to Boise was Tyler’s discussion of downtowns. Tyler asserted that downtowns provide a better community focused center because of the range and types of places. He gives a quick list of what downtowns can do to sustain themselves, but he leaves out one glaring element- transportation and parking. Parking in downtown Boise is difficult and it is a deterrent. During the week it is expensive and limited by 2 hour meters, on the weekend and in the evening, you still have to pay in the garages or try finding a place on the street. Buses do run downtown, but they stop running at 6:00pm, and there is limited service on Saturday. I suggest trying a free parking month and then calculate how many more people come to downtown. Another option is to increase public transportation; the city should look into the costs and benefits of an interurban transit system like the one Boise had in the past. Many businesses in downtown Boise are leaving, and it is a trend that will continue, unless the City and downtown association looks for better ways to address the public’s needs.

This weekend I was in Pasco, Washington for a funeral. We arrived a couple of hours before the service so we deceived to drive around the town. After reading the Tyler book it was an interesting tour. Pasco’s downtown has been completely neglected, right now it provides only shopping venues that are deeply influenced by Hispanic culture. Although it is refreshing to see the spread of Hispanic culture, the downtown is now simply a marketplace for inexpensive goods; gone are the government buildings, cultural museums, and offices. The buildings have also been neglected, and it was an eye-opening experience to see the fate of a once thriving downtown. I asked my family members who live in Pasco where the new downtown hub was, and they informed me that it was what I had assumed- a 5 block strip mall on road 68. But surely a strip mall could not replace downtown, like Tyler stated how buildings function “define downtown as a focus of community life, not simply the physical groupings of buildings,” therefore without a mix of retail, commercial buildings, city offices, and cultural resources, downtown cannot sustain itself. If people truly want to buy more than commodities, goods, and services, and if they are “willing to spend more to purchase experiences;” (283) then downtowns provide the perfect outlet for this kind of unique experience. All strip malls can provide the same experiences as any other town, but each city’s downtown is unique, and perhaps this is something people should reflect on before they decide to tear down a historic building only to replace it with paid parking.