Nancy and her 2.0 Talk

Let me first say that technology is only as good as the person who reads his email.  In the case of this blog, since I didn’t read my email, I blame technology rather than take the blame myself.  I like how that works!  Sooooooooooo let me play catchup.   I did take the time to watch Nancy Proctor’s presentation and do agree that it looks like somebody filmed it with their cell phone and put it on YouTube.  Oh the irony of it all!    She brings up some very interesting ideas concerning the use of technology in museums.  I thought it was interesting how they were using this new technology for audio tours in Amsterdam in 1952 and sixty years later many museums haven’t got that far yet!  I think that if a museum really wants to take full advantage they need to accomplish a few things. 

First they need to have strong leadership that fully understands this new technology or hire somebody that fully understands it and give them full reign( or is it rein?)  to get the job done.  They also need to be able to accommodate all levels of customer understanding of technology.  They will have everyone from the 14 year old tech genius who almost knows too much, all the way down to the 80  year old grandma who still has a rotary dial phone in her house and is deathly afraid of all technology.  The trouble is that the museum only has a few minutes to accommodate these customers so they must be prepared for all levels beforehand.  This might require dividing the customer into A, B or C groups and adjusting the technology and presentation accordingly. 

I think we have all seen some of this in our class.  There is so much out there that is exciting and we wanted to use for our projects that we (or I) had a hard time trying to narrow it down to one or two.   The advantages of  using technology in our class was limitless, but our abilities to learn and time to learn was limited.  I think that if I was teaching a graduate or undergraduate public history course using mobile devices the I would keep it narrowed down to a few of the best apps or programs.  Assignment “A” would be done this way using that app, Assignment “B” would use another app, Assignment “C” would use another, etc.   I think all this mobile tech and apps is awesome, but drinking from a fire hose is hard to do and harmful to your health!

Thomas F. King’s Boo-Hooing

Thomas F. King has some serious issues!  He sounds like he might need to be on suicide watch. And who is this John H. Perkins on the back cover who said this book is a “joy to read”?  John, get a life!  If I saw Mr. King I would have to tell him to perk up buttercup!  If we think back to what was happening to our environment in the early 1900’s and the progress we made to correct those abuses, we should be very pleased.  The Endangered Special Act, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, among others all helped to raise awareness of what we were doing wrong and help us start doing things right.  He seems to think we still aren’t doing enough, but he also needs to keep in mind that we still need an economy in this country.  We must still be able to harvest timber, extract resources and manufacture goods to keep our country strong.  And there is no reason why we can’t do all that and still protect our environment.

Baron Von Munchausen Revisionists

I was both amazed and appalled by the reply from the manager of the BVM museum.  I can’ t believe a professional would send back a letter filled with so much acrimony and contempt, not to mention the obvious ignorance of the facts.  When she said something about Greeks not getting into the whole slavery issue I about fell out of my chair!  As a Greek herself, she doesn’t know that the early history of her people is filled with slavery?  As a teacher myself, we sometimes have to teach difficult and sensitive subjects to our students.  You can teach those subjects in the correct manner where the students learn about it and learn from it.  You don’t just leave it out just because it might make some students uneasy.  The manager should have been thanking Mr. Cebula for helping correct the mistakes, instead of lashing out at him in a childlike manner.  Not professional at all.

Reflections on Chasing Pirates

As everyone knows by now, I was involved in politics for quite a while so I have trouble believing anything people say any more is true.  This may sound extremely cynical but people have a natural tendency to lie, cheat steal and generally be full of crap!  I know in my experience as a high school teacher that my students had a tendency to believe everything they read so I was always telling them to check the source.  If the source isn’t credible then don’t believe what they say or write.  And then with programs such as Photoshop you couldn’t even believe the pictures you were seeing.  I think the professor was proving to his students the same thing.   It made me think of Orson Well’s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast that sent many people into hysterics.  Every April Fool’s Day the Star News in McCall does a “spoof”  article that gets many of its readers hook, line and sinker.  Even though the editors say “April Fools!” at the end of the article, invariably you will hear excited people in town talking about the article as if it is real!  It is a great  reminder just how gullible people can be and to always, always check your sources before you go chasing pirates!

Recommended: Interactive maps of Idaho’s Mining/Ghost Towns

I found three different websites on Idaho’s mining/ghost towns.  All three have different types of interactive maps with icons for you to click on to view more information about each town.

This is from Outdoor Idaho and has several of Idaho’s mining towns on their interactive map.  Each link to the towns have a lot of information and both historical and modern day photos.

This interactive map has ghost/mining towns from all over the country.  You can click on the “states” tab and then click on “Idaho” to see all of Idaho’s towns.  You can either click on a county or click on the list of towns or list of counties.  Each link has information about the town but there are no pics.  Hope you like banjo music!

This is another interactive map used Google maps.  It has towns from all over the west including about 7 from Idaho.  You can click on the Google icon to see the towns.  Has some information and lots of modern day photos but no historical ones.

After going through all three you should be ready to go strike it rich!

How the National Register of Historic Places Saved Wallace, Idaho

This is the story of  Harry F. Magnuson and his leadership in the battle from 1970 to 1986 to save the Town of Wallace from destruction at the hands of State and Federal highway officials. Born in Wallace in 1923, Harry became a legendary business leader and philanthropist in the Northwest and beyond who never forgot his roots in his beloved hometown. The Federal Highway Administration and the Idaho Transportation Department planned to route Interstate 90 directly through the center of Wallace. Slated for the wrecking ball were blocks of historic buildings, including the iconic Northern Pacific Railroad Depot, that linked the Town to its storied past.  Harry Magnuson sued the FHA and ITD, alleging that they had failed to file an Environmental Impact Statement. A Federal judged concurred, entered an injunction, and halted the imminent bulldozers.  Harry [together with Nancy Lee Hansen] secured placement of the entire Town of Wallace on the National Register of Historic Places, creating insurmountable roadblocks in the agencies’ paths.  The stoplight at the corner of 7th and Bank Streets, the last on I-90 between Seattle and Boston, became a stirring national symbol of Wallace’s fight for survival.  As a result of Harry’s efforts, a compromise was struck, preserving Historic Wallace. A new overhead freeway was designed to bypass the Town. The Depot was moved across the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River to its new location on 6th Street.  The battle won, the Townspeople conducted a ceremonial funeral for the storied stoplight in 1991. Media from around the world reported the event. Charles Kuralt of CBS News wanted to know how a town of 1,000 people could stand up to the Federal government. The answer was “Harry.”  Historic Wallace is Harry Magnuson’s legacy to the Town he loved so deeply. Without his efforts, the elegant historic district you see today would be nothing more than four lanes of concrete. With this in mind, a grateful citizenry has dedicated the original routing of I-90 through Wallace as the  “Harry F. Magnuson Way.” 

A Politician’s Museum

Timothy Luke’s Museum Politics brought back a lot of memories for me from my time in the political arena of Idaho.  As a history teacher elected to three terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, I was afforded both the historical and political perspectives.  As Luke described in his book, any school, agency or museum that received any taxpayer dollars was subject to the scrutiny of the political leaders.  If a museum was found to have a display that could be seen as offensive to any one group in Idaho and that museum was receiving state funding, you can be rest assured that a legislator would get involved.  All it would take was one call, email or letter from a constituent complaining about an offensive display at BSU or the Idaho Historical Society or any other museum in Idaho and that constituents legislator would be on the phone to the director of that museum asking for the display to be removed. 

I was also heavily involved in the Idaho Historical Society’s attempt to strengthen the process for identifying historical landmarks and/or buildings.  The proposed law would have allowed the Historical Society a chance to review any plans for the demolition of any  city, county or state owned buildings to see if there was any possible historical value.  Although this seems somewhat innocuous, I found out from my fellow legislators that it was NOT!  They were sure this would give the Historical Society enormous amounts of power that they would use to eventually take over Idaho and the rest of the world.  I had to pull the bill back to committee or face a public flogging of some sort!  Thanks Timothy for the stroll down memory lane!!

Dale Fisk, “Jack of all Trades” Historian of Council Valley

Miles from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Boise lies the town of Council, nestled in the rich Council Valley alongside the ever flowing Weiser River.  The history of Council is a history like many other western towns.  With its name derived from the large meetings of Indian “councils” the valley’s roots stretch far back before the arrival of the white man.  The town itself began in the late 1860’s with settlers off the last stages of the Oregon Trail and the population grew as the farmers, ranchers, miners and loggers worked together to develop a community out of the mountains. 

One hundred and fifty years later  Council still clings to its past with tremendous pride and scattered throughout the population of 815 are the same names and faces of that bygone era.  There is one man among those who has taken it upon himself to research, record and preserve that history for future generations, Dale Fisk. Dale Fisk is a product of Council history himself with homesteaders from both sides of his family settling in the valley.  What started as a personal interest in his own family history evolved into an interest and love of the history of Council and the valley where he still lives. Dale has written three books on the history of the area, authors a byline in the weekly newspaper known as “History Corner”, sits on the Adams County Historic Preservation Commission and in his spare time is the guy in charge of the Council Valley Museum. 

Unlike in the bigger cities that have the sources of revenue to pay for a full time museum director, archivist, tour guide and oral historian, Council does not have that luxury.  Dale has all of those aforementioned titles plus many more.  He supplements his lack of income as a public historian with income derived from his books, newspaper articles, scrimshaw work, playing in his bluegrass band, ranching and a host of other part time jobs where he can utilize his tremendous talents and abilities.  For Dale, his love of history shines through in all of his work.  In many of his songs that he sings in his country/bluegrass band you can hear reflections of his Idaho past.  Songs such as his most famous “Running Back to Idaho” show a tremendous love for his native state.  Dale’s love of history also extends into his scrimshaw work.  This painstaking artistry on remnants of ivory is an art unto itself and much of his work depicts famous leaders and scenes from  the past.  Dale has tremendous pride in the three books he has researched and written on the Council Valley area and the railroads that helped build the towns in it. 

Most small town public historians are like our Dale Fisk.  Most of them don’t get paid that much if any, most didn’t go to college to get a public history degree and most would probably tell you that they don’t do what they do for money, fame or notoriety.  The do it, like Dale, because they love history and specifally the history of their beloved home towns.  Like a good county doctor, Dale provides us “Councilites” with an invaluable service.  He is our “jack of all trades” historian that we wouldn’t trade for anything.