Historic Preservation (II)

This week’s readings brought us some of the nitty-gritty details of historic preservation. I am still very much a novice to this field, so I’ll keep this book handy if I ever become involved with saving a historic building. I found the following three items especially helpful for understanding this field:

  1. There are criteria for buildings to NOT be considered for historic recognition. I never thought, for example, about the significance of moving a building to its importance for designating it historic. Christs Chapel on the BSU campus for example was moved two or three times. I wonder how that affects its significance as a historic place?
  2. The evaluation of significance, in terms of age, style, unaltered, historical. This was  a nice tool for me to comprehend how to rank buildings for historical significance. From what I gathered, historic preservation is more of an art than a science. In many ways we are dealing with human emotion, so coming up with a rubric like the significance thermometer help preservationists determine historic designations. It also helps the public understand the decision process.
  3. The Dedesignation process is a tool to keep the integrity of the National Historic Landmarks. As the book said history is not static. Many of the buildings on the NHL are still being used in some sort of day-to-day operation. It is important to designate buildings, but it is also important to delist buildings that were significantly altered. This sends a message to building owners that they have an active part in preserving their building’s history.

After reading these chapters, I feel the historic preservation field is much better off now than it used to be. It seems there is a good system in place for preserving historic buildings. Yes, some structures may fall through the cracks – Boise’s schools in the bench neighborhoods for example, but overall these mechanisms are working. I must admit though, after browsing the application process on the National Register website I am a bit dismayed by the idea of submitting one of these applications!

Historic Preservation: Take Two

I had no idea how convoluted, diverse, and complicated preservation was.  There are many types, levels, and functions of preservation.  While Tyler explained the National Register’s Criteria for Evaluation of a property’s historic significance, I couldn’t help but notice how subjective the criteria seemed.  The property has to be associated with a “significant” event in American history, associated with a “significant” person, on a “significant” site, or representative of a “significant” type, period, method, or form of construction or art.  These criteria seem ridiculously ambiguous and I wonder how often political/ethnic/racial motivations help make a specific site “significant?”  I particularly liked the thermometer metaphor in thinking about historic “significance;” specific criteria can benefit or detract from the overall “significance” of a building, area, or location.

While I understand the point of the Fifty-Year-Rule, I am sure there are numerous buildings over fifty years old that lack historic, architectural, or cultural value.  Likewise, I am sure there are more examples than the few Tyler mentions where historic, architectural, or cultural value exists to a great degree on “newer” buildings.  Why can’t history be truly lived?  Why the arbitrary number? Why 50? Why not 100? Why not 25?

On page 148, Tyler explained the criteria for excluding locations from the National Register.  Much like the criteria for including locations, I found these to be rather subjective.  Religious properties are generally not listed unless they have significant historical or architectural merit.  I have been to a great number of churches throughout my life.  Most of the churches either look extremely historic (because they are really old) or extremely new (because they are really new).  Many historic churches are located in historic districts and/or have “significant” architectural features.  Also, why is moving a structure such a big deal?  So long as visitors are informed of the move, I feel that relocating historically “significant” (to use their favorite word) buildings can be of great educational merit.  One of my favorite museums is a County Museum back home.  There are about ten relocated buildings that have been saved from being demolished and relocated to the outside museum.  When you go in the different buildings, the previous location is given as well as a description of when and why residents added to the original structures.  I have already argued about the arbitrary nature of the Fifty-Year-Rule.

In regards to dedesignation, I found one of the criteria to be subjective as well as ironic: a building or location can be dedesignated because of “prejudicial procedural error in the designation process.”  I would hate for a building to be dedesignated for the same reason, prejudicial procedural error in the dedesignation process.  The entire process seems like a bureaucratic mess.  As for dedesignating Soldier Field because they updated the structure, I feel that Soldier Field (Grant Park Field) still holds great cultural and historic value.  It is problems like this make me think twice about advocating the historic preservation of locations.  Economics drives society, America is after all capitalist in many ways.  Where do economics and historic preservation meet?

I found Tyler’s discussion on the “restoration” of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park, Illinois interesting.  I lived less than ten blocks from here during undergrad, and I went on the architecture and history tours a few times while I lived there.  While his specific home and studio have been restored to their 1913 selves, there are three buildings next to this complex that Wright crafted.  People live in these buildings and they reflect later additions as well as Wright’s evolving architectural styles.  If you go to the Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oak Park, they offer a walking tour that encompasses these buildings as well as parts of the local high school and a couple churches he either designed or built.  When his home and studio are places within the context of the other buildings, all of which are currently being used, the restoration efforts seem more than out of place.  Moreover, the museum’s tour guides never mention that the buildings were restored.  Most visitors are led to believe that Frank Lloyd Wright was the only occupant of the building and nothing has been touched since, this is not good history.  Regardless of these “problems,” the tour is a lot of fun, but I would definitely suggest taking the walking tour rather than the simple on site “point and grunt” tour.

I had no idea how many different types of preservation and documentation existed in the field of historic preservation.  After finishing today’s readings, I am very appreciative that I am not going into historic preservation.  Part of the reason for this is seemingly subjective criteria for determining how “significant” a place or location is.  Another reason for this is that I cannot imagine trying to decide which type of preservation to attribute to which building, nor can I imagine trying to defend the reasoning for my decision.  Tyler claims that preservationists are not against development, but I find his argument rather biased.  If preservationists feel that a specific structure needs to be maintained exactly as is, or that one original building materials can be utilized, preservationists are indeed against development.  Development and progress go hand in hand, therefore, being against progress is being against development.  There is a fine line between maintaining the cultural, historic, or architectural significance of a building and rendering a building useless or unable to make money.  As for the discussion regarding “experience economies,” I wish Tyler would have delved deeper into how a community, state, or region effectively pursues such an experience.  Furthermore, I wish Tyler would have discussed the, inevitably there are many, failed attempts at creating “experience economies.”

Conservation Methods

The readings this week covered a lot of ground.  The field of historic preservation is vast and complicated.  If I learned anything, I learned that there are as many different ideas of what and how history should be preserved as there is actual building that should be preserved.  One of the things that I found most interesting is the argument on when a building becomes historical.  The McDonalds building in DowneyCalifornia is a prime example.  It is both a piece of architectural history and a cultural monument.  It represents a style that should be preserved and a piece of Americana.  Who would we be without Big Macs and the Ronald McDonald?  This building is the perfect representation of that because it is so stylistically 1950s.  I also enjoyed reading about Rehabilitation preservation, also known as adaptive use (197).  Buildings can’t sit empty.  When they do, they tend to fall into disrepair.  To maintain their viability they need to be used.  It also becomes dangerous if a block of prime real estate is taken up by a building that has no discernable use.  Profit seekers tend to start salivating when that happens.  Sometimes the original purpose of a building no longer exists and if it to remain a part of the community, it must have a new life.  Turing an old Mill into a museum is an example of adaptive use.  Turning old warehouses into lofts is another example.  In this way the past is recognized and preserved yet the building does not sit idle.  Who knows, in another 100 years, today’s loft apartments might turn into shops.

I love the idea of the experience economy.  People want the experience of stepping into the past and by using that desire coupled with a historic area, cities can be both profitable and historically preserved.  By involving people in the idea of a historic building or district a link is created.  People are much more likely to fight against development when they have an attachment to something.  The Boise Egyptian Theatre is the perfect example of this.  It brings in smaller venue events and created an intimate atmosphere in a restored theatre.  It is a public site where people can gather and be entertained in a historic and intimate venue.  If anyone threatened the Egyptian with destruction today they would have quite a fight on their hands because the people of Boise are involved with the history of the building.

Historic Preservation, Part II

Reading the chapters for this week showed me how much goes into historic preservation. Having no real background in it, I was amazed at how much goes into it, and how many different styles of it exist. Chapter seven gave a brief overview of the many styles of preservation. One thing mentioned in chapter seven that I important was “A guiding principle of good restoration practice is that an original element, even if in poor condition, is preferable to a replicated element (195). And a few lines later, the author took issue with Viollet-le-Duc’s interpretation that historic works should look how they were designed to be, which is confusing in itself. How many historic buildings that we take for granted as historic were altered to fit the designer’s assumption of what it should have been? There are a lot of recreated historic buildings in this country, how do we know if they are supposed to look that way or not? Examples spring to mind like Williamsburg and Jamestown. Sometimes the ruins are as important as the recreations. If Troy was reconstructed, or Knossos on Crete, would that really benefit more than the ruins? Although they are ruins, they are the original ruins. Should the Colosseum be renovated? I don’t believe so because you are taking away the originality of the building when you do that. If the Colosseum was rebuilt, it would not have been built in 80 CE, but in 2013. I think that is important to consider before jumping to the conclusion that we need a perfect visual of what the town, or building, looked like instead of the original foundations or ruins.


Another chapter that interested me was the chapter on historic significance, chapter five. The author proposed that McDonald’s is a historic building, and was added to the National Register (142). At first I was a little perplexed why McDonald’s of all places was historically significant. It’s one of many fast food restaurants in the country. Will Wal Mart and Best Buy become historic buildings on the National Register as well? I certainly hope not. However, I realized it represented something about life in 20th century America. Not only is McDonald’s popular, but it has become a part of our culture being one of the first fast food chains in America. Fast food, regardless of what one feels about it, is an important part of American culture. It represents the fast pace many of us live, and therefore is historically significant, for a positive or negative reason. Although I still find it odd to put it on the list, I understand in a way why it was added.

Wiki’s Wiki’s Everywhere

I did not want to do this assignment.  I don’t post to websites often anymore because, frankly, I find that the people who exist on them tend to be ignorant and mean.  Why subject myself to that kind of violence when I don’t have to.  I grudgingly began to search for a topic that would be interesting to me, historical, and not controversial.  For the Wikipedia article I chose to expand the plot of one of my favorite childhood books, Caddie Woodlawn.  This book was based on a real family who lived in a small frontier town in Wisconsin in the 1860s.  It was written by Carol Ryrie Brink, whose grandmother and great aunt told her the stories that would become Caddie Woodlawn.  One of the reasons that I chose this particular Wiki entry is because of the discussion we had in class a couple of weeks ago.  Women are underrepresented on Wikipedia.  The fact that Halo has a story overview that is several paragraphs long while this book had a plot description three sentences long was concerning to me.  Caddie was a great role model.  Strong, stubborn, independent, and fierce, she faced all situations with calm and a determination to survive.   Editing the existing page was time consuming and complicated.  One thing I learned is that Wikipedia does not make editing easy.  Once I did post, it was fun to check it several times a day to see if it was still up.  It was, and is.  I never had a problem with my post being rejected.  I wonder how much of that had to do with the subject I chose.  I am sure if I had attempted to edit the Halo page I would have met with much more resistance.  I will probably never create another Wikipedia article, but this was not as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I like Wikipedia and I am very glad that it exists, but I am not a fan of creating articles for it.

The Boise Wiki was a lot easier to use.  Wikipedia’s editing page was complicated and not at all user friendly, especially when compared to how smoothly the Boise Wiki edit page is.  The directions were very clear on what needed to be done and how it should be done.  For example, I did not know why linking was a big deal until it was explained in the directions.  It was also very easy to understand how to create a proper link.  I enjoyed the Boise Wiki assignment quite a bit and love the fact that Boise’s history is being examined, one subject at a time, by the people who love Boise and it’s past.  This is truly a community driven resource.

For the Boise Wiki I chose to create an article about Billy Fong.  Billy was the last member of Boise’s Chinatown to reside in the old Chinese district.  He was 84 years old when his home was purchased by the Boise Redevelopment Agency and slated for destruction.  Billy had lived in the Hop Sing Tong building for over thirty years, but that was not important to the BRA.  Nor was the historic significance of the Eastman Building, Chinatown, or many of the other old buildings in downtown Boise.  Billy and the old buildings in the area stood in the way of perceived progress.  Despite his eviction, Billy remained in his second floor apartment, refusing to move for several months.  His treatment at the hand of the BRA became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the redevelopment plans for Boise in the 1960s and 1970s.  It was partly due to Billy and the destruction of the Chinese district that several other buildings and districts were saved.  The Egyptian Theater was also supposed to be purchased and torn down but it was rescued, due in part to the efforts of those who were determined not to let another piece of Boise’s past disappear.  Billy was tough to research because there is not a lot known about his early life.  I’m sure that something could be found if I had longer than three weeks, but who he was prior to his move to Boise is unclear.  What happened when he finally surrendered and left his apartment is also unclear.  What is known is that he lived in the same apartment in Boise for thirty years.  He was a member of the Hop Sing Tong and worked for them in many administrative roles.  He was a cook at the Golden Wok and he fought the Boise Redevelopment Agency and lost.  He is also responsible for the Boise curse.  Legend says that as he left his apartment he cursed the ground, a curse that caused havoc at the site and spread to help create the Boise Hole.

Historic Preservation, Part II

The section that stuck out to me concerned communities selling their cities as a ‘special experience’ or ‘experience economy”(283).  This is something that I’ve actually really been thinking about for Boise recently. Having lived in the Treasure Valley for more or less 6 years now, I think it is a shame that Boise hasn’t taken advantage of this idea. The city calls it downtown area “BoDo” but then does no marketing within the area about it. In class on Thursday Dr. Bieter told us there were little historical looking glasses in a few spots downtown and I was genuinely shocked. Boise not only needs to stop selling itself short and start marketing itself, but the local historical community needs to wake up and do the same. The historical museum has a horrible marketing program, I didn’t even know there was a Black History Museum in the area, and the lack of local marketing almost gives me the impression that Boise people are ashamed of their own history. This area is rich with culture, heritage, and history but no one really talks about it.

The focus of the section on this experience economy is the community that needs to sell itself to tourists. I think, however, that a city needs to sell itself to its own citizens first. If a tourist asks a local Boise man or woman about the local museums and the only thing they can think of is the Basque museum or the old houses on the North End then that is a failure of the local historical community. The authors should have focused on the sad reality of poor self-marketing of historical communities as much as it did the minute details they went into describing historical preservation and cement. There is a hole in their argument that they don’t cover the sad realities along with the ‘successes’ like Pike Street in Seattle. I think we would have been well served to learn about where it didn’t work just as much as where it did.

Historic Preservation, Part II

When walking downtown wondering where the older buildings have gone, like Fosters Warehouse Furniture, the older restaurants and shops, it seems that Boise has suffered from what other cities have suffered from.  It seems that either these buildings were not good enough to keep and needed to be torn down because of this new, invigorating term called progress. BODO (Boise Downtown) is the area where these older buildings were and is trying for the upscale, chic look that other cities have and that Boise is trying to emulate.

I look at the examples in the book, like Pikes Place and Pioneer Square in Seattle, Lower Downtown (Lodo) in Denver, and the renovation of St. Louis Union Square Station and Pittsburgh’s Station Square are excellent examples of cities looking at existing structures and using the character and flavor to renovate and attempt to preserve these prestigious buildings and their place in history.  Boise has tried to make what seems a token gesture at restoration and preservation, but our fair city seems to be getting better at attempting to work at doing better in preserving its past.  Boise has its own historical street program like the one mentioned in Chapter 11, on Pg. 324.  On Grove Street there is a narrative on the early buildings and how it related to businesses that were originally downtown that were run by Chinese immigrants.  This historic street exhibit is essential in telling the story of the everyday life that occurred in the early history of Boise.

Examples of what preservation and restoration in Boise can be seen with what was done with the Egyptian Theater. The theater was saved in the 70’s and has been renovated many times.  It is an example a building that is registered in the Historic American Building Survey or HABS and is known in the survey as the Ada Theater.  The Fort Boise Administration Building is also registered in HABS, so there are many buildings that are in the Survey in Boise.

Seeing that from this week’s readings implies that  preservation does indeed matter and that local governments care as much for preserving certain buildings and landmarks as much as the federal government does.  Concerned citizens are the ones that raise their voices in preserving and using technology as a way to seek to renew and make these older gems of the past sparkle as when they were first built.

Wikipedia & the Boise Wiki

This was an interesting assignment.  Although I have browsed through Wikis looking for interesting topics, new sources or just random trivia, I have never actually attempted to edit a Wiki before.  I have had it clearly drilled into me by numerous professors that Wikipedia is the antithesis of a credible source.  I assumed that the entry for the Boise Wiki would be the easier of the two as there would be less likelihood that someone would come on to that site to either edit or reject my information.  In an effort to streamline the process for each of the entries, I decided to draw upon topics that I already had a working knowledge of and that were lacking in an informative online presence.  For the Boise Wiki, I chose to focus on the artesian and geothermal history of the Boise Valley.  For Wikipedia, I chose to focus on the Minidoka War Relocation Center.


For the Wikipedia section of this assignment, I took some time to try and figure out what topic I might like to expand upon, visiting more Wikipedia pages then I care to count.  I tried to come up with a topic that already had several credible secondary sources online that I could link to.  The Wikipedia page for the Minidoka War Relocation Center had some basic information regarding the location of the internment camp, the numbers of internees who were housed there and the process of making it a National Historic Site.  There was a gap in the information regarding both the actual make-up of the camp as well as the efforts of internees during the war.  I felt that these two areas should definitely be highlighted and then went about trying to determine what information I felt was the most important to highlight.  In the research that I have done on Minidoka and other WWII Japanese-American internment camps I have noticed that there is rarely a good understanding of how massive the facilities were.  The lack of that information alone seriously impacted the utility of the Wikipedia article to provide a baseline understanding of internment.

In an attempt to keep my edits as unobjectionable as possible, I wrote basic descriptions that could be substantiated by documents from the National Park Service.  I also decided to keep my edits relatively short and to the point so that they would be more readily accepted by the Wikipedia editors.

The actual process of editing the Minidoka entry on Wikipedia was relatively easy.  I typed up my entry offline in a plain text editor, including the appropriate links to cite the sources, and then copy and pasted it in the Wikipedia edit box.  Once I completed editing, I submitted the edits and anxiously waited to see if my edits would be able to survive.  I checked several times the first day, fully expecting my contributions to quickly disappear given both the class discussions and the readings on Wikipedia.  I have continued to check at least once a day since I posted and, so far, so good – the edits have not been challenged or changed.

Boise Wiki

The problems I had with the Boise Wiki were not related to technology by any means.  The topic I selected to write about for the Boise Wiki, artesian and geothermal water, was one I researched extensively for another class.  It was a difficult topic to research as there is very little available on the subject and I had to spend quite a deal of time going through old rolls of microfilm and archival materials for the project.  As a result, I was somewhat reticent to put all of the information I had gathered for that paper onto the Wiki.  I would hate to have someone take my hard work and pass it off as their own.  This also concerned me, as the Boise Wiki requires we release our claim to our work.  Additionally, I doubt that the thirty pages that made up my final project would be appropriate for a Wiki designed to provide a brief overview of a topic.

After editing or essentially re-writing my information, the actual process of posting to the Boise Wiki was relatively simple. I doubt that my entry will inspire any edits or changes among visitors.


My advice to others looking to post on a Wiki would be to plan ahead and ensure that you have your sources and information well documented, particularly for Wikipedia.  Also, be prepared with some sort of argument as to why your changes should be permitted.  Having read the assignment regarding Wikipedia and hearing about the previous class that attempted to edit Wikipedia, I was prepared to argue in favor of my changes but, luckily, I have not yet had to.  I also assumed that preparing an argument in advance would prevent me from having an emotional reaction to either a rejection or a substantial edit of my entries.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minidoka_National_Historic_Site

Boise Wiki: https://boise.localwiki.org/Artesian_and_Geothermal_Water


Wiki’s…Never Give Up, Never Surrender

This assignment was a great undertaking for this old, not so technical kind of person.  I can maneuver around the internet with the best of people, but trying to create these wiki articles was indeed a frustrating challenge to say the least.  My previous experience in writing a Wiki article came in my Introduction to Public History class that was taught at the time by Dr. Madsen-Brooks.  We had to write and develop five articles for the up and coming Boise Wiki.  I thought that this was a challenge to come up with five new things that have not been written about for the city of Boise.  I had forgotten how these taxed my mind and tried to overcome my anxiety of posting to the Boise Wiki, and then try to make this work on Wikipedia itself, when I looked at it, it truly boggled my mind.  But as one to never quit, or surrender, I went once again into the fray to try and post articles to the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia itself.

When I started this adventure, I was first going to do it on the first woman that was executed in the state of Idaho.  The internet interceded and looking at the Idaho Statesman website and it got me thinking that since this is the 150th anniversary of the forming of the territory of Idaho.  Then with the Statesman naming 150 people and events that have happened in Boise, the thought occurred to me, why not do it on infamous people.  This is when the idea to write on Robin Row hit me.  She is the only woman that is officially on Idaho’s death row, so why not look to both wiki’s and see if anything had been written on her, and there had not.   There has not much been written on her since she was incarcerated into the Idaho prison system.  Then I searched Google and other search engines and there was not an article specific to Robin Row.  So this made it the next step to write a short 300 word article and then try to get it published on the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia.  This is where it became difficult.  Being old, and with little knowlege about either, it was sink or swim.  Dog paddling in these waters helped me to survive.

I had tried to use my previous account from the Boise Wiki to log in and create the article.  After several attempts to reset the password, I just went ahead and created a new account.  This seemed to be the logical things to do and it worked.  Then I proceeded to create a new page called “Infamous People”. ( https://boise.localwiki.org/Infamous_People ) Once the page was created, it was very easy to add the article and then publish it.  Editing the Boise Wiki is extremely easy to do.  The page is there and hopefully if more people want to add it about the Infamous People that have been in Boise, then it is there.

The Wikipedia page was a whole different story in its creation.  I had created the account and did the “sandbox” entry to try and see if could take it from the article itself from creation to publication.  What was so frustrating was that I was stuck in the “sandbox”.  I realize that it was my “sandbox” to play in, but getting out was the difficult part.  This portion was extremely hard to deal with until the thought hit me, just go to YouTube, and see if there is a simpler way to try and get the article out of the “sandbox”.  There was a video and I was able free myself and get the article, hopefully published.  There was a blurb saying that the editors were weeks behind in editing and that it will take time for them to get to it.  I looked to see if there was anything in my “talk” area, and there was not.  I was able to print out what was there and I feel I have made my contribution to Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Lee_Row)

As for writing such a small article for Wikipedia, I feel that I am now part of the world of global information.  In seeing the lengthy articles that are there, I feel like the guppy in with the sharks.  I will have to wait and see what the fate of the article is.

About the liabilities and advantages of writing wiki articles is that they are always subject to ones interpretation of how the original author wants the information to be portrayed.  Since Wikipedia only deals with secondary sources, then the reader is wondering if the article is credible, or just skewed to the way the author wants to present his information.  The smaller, local wiki would have to be edited constantly so that false or defamatory information is not posted.  The Boise Wiki is a great opportunity for regular people and also for public historians to post information that is valuable and meaningful.

Public historians can use Wiki’s to best of their abilities if they use their imaginations and can create a wiki for the museum or exhibit that they are personally working on.  Smart phones and tablets can be directed to the wiki site where the historian has placed their information and it could be used as a guide for say students could look at this prior to seeing the exhibit.

Wiki’s can be an important tool if they are used in the way they are supposed to be used.  In doing this assignment, I think that most of us will learn that going through the mechanics of getting a wiki published is only half the battle.  It’s following the guidelines and rules so that if one is passionate about what they feel is important, then a wiki can be the place to show that passion.

Reflection on the Wiki Assignment

I chose to write my wiki article on the Boise sesquicentennial happening this year. The sesquicentennial is something that I have been involved with while working for the City of Boise’s Department of Arts & History, and I feel like the commemoration is an important piece of public history at work. The sesquicentennial, or Boise 150, commemoration has made substantial efforts to engage and involve the community through various and creative ways; including a special Boise 150 storefront, grant programs, the Sesqui-Speaks series, and special exhibitions. The Department of Arts & History, through the sesquicentennial is also creating legacy pieces such as the Share Your Story Program, a commemorative book, and the commemorative CD. I have learned quite a bit about how public history can function while working on the sesquicentennial commemoration. I believe that when we look back at the sesquicentennial, Boiseans will consider it an important milestone for the city, especially considering the huge amounts of growth the city is currently experiencing. I thought it was important to include this information on the Boise Wiki, since it is Boise specific. However, as far as Wikipedia, I don’t think the editors would agree that Boise’s sesquicentennial is an important thing to acknowledge. Therefore, on the Wikipedia page I only made a small edit.

This assignment was not entirely enjoyable for me. In comparing the two sites, (the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia) the Boise Wiki was very simple and straightforward. Following the prompts to edit or create a page is easily understood, and I feel that almost anyone with basic computer knowledge could contribute successfully to the Boise Wiki. The Boise Wiki, I feel is also a good way to build community involvement and knowledge. The Boise Wiki does not purport itself to be the expert on all things the way Wikipedia does, which makes it a non-threatening venue to contribute to. I like the fact that the Boise Wiki is community based with community contributors lends to that fact that is less intimidating to edit than Wikipedia. Community users may also feel they have more valuable information to contribute on a local wiki as opposed to the world-wide Wikipedia.

Wikipedia on the other hand is intimidating to edit, and not as simple as contributing to the Boise Wiki. On Wikipedia, even searching for help can be intimidating and onerous. In fact, all of the help links I tried proved entirely unhelpful and lent to even more confusion on my part. It is understandable that only a handful of people would want to contribute to Wikipedia, and that those people that do contribute have a fairly advanced understanding of technology and code. On top of the anxiety of simply figuring out how to edit, there is no guarantee that your edits will stay up on the page; and you may have to answer to the dreaded Wikipedia editors. As we learned from the articles we read in class, the editors can be condescending, vague, and inflexible.

After this experience and after reading about Wikipedia and discussing it in class my opinion of the online encyclopedia has soured. “Truth” on Wikipedia, is defined by Wikipedia editors through a series of rigid and non-flexible criteria. I feel that scholars shouldn’t waste time trying to contribute to Wikipedia or arguing with Wikipedia’s editors. It is my hope that Wikipedia, because of its practices, will not sustain itself and will be replaced by a more concise, peer-reviewed, and academic online encyclopedia. Perhaps, an online encyclopedia could be created that compiles different “truths” and ideas so readers can make up their own minds about a topic instead of relying on Wikipedia editors.

This assignment has confirmed many things for me, including the need for public historians to focus their energy outside of Wikipedia, and outside of traditional ways of disseminating knowledge. Many people use Wikipedia as a quick reference, and they accept the information as valid. Public historians should seek to spark conversations and provide opportunities for people to ask more questions, not just look up little bits of information. With scholars abandoning sites like Wikipedia, I hope that people will begin to see the online encyclopedia as an obsolete and archaic way to view the world. Instead, I hope to see a shift towards asking questions, not only to find answers, but to create dialogue, understanding, and a continued interest in learning about the world.