Boise Historic Music Tour

Group Members: Jacey Brain, Tabatha Butler, Sarah Phillips.

The Boise Historic Music Tour guides users as they find and recognize historic (and current) Boise music venues. We focused on the past twenty-five years (1986 to present). The venues included in the app were not necessarily founded after 1986, but they have been actively involved in the Boise music scene since then. The guide allows users to locate venues on a map and learn more about the location. The historical information included for each venue varies, however each location description includes the significance and contribution of the venue to the Boise music community, including a listing of some of the artists who have performed there.

We used archives, newspapers and other periodicals, and other primary and secondary sources to complete the research for the project. We also used electronic resources such as YouTube to locate supplementary videos which are linked through the application. After completing the research and writing blurbs for each site included in the tour, we created a map of venues through Google Touring, and placed the blurbs and YouTube links into the venue descriptions. We then registered a Google website for the tour at We posted a link to the tour, a list of sources used in creating the project, an introductory page and a link for comments on the website.

The biggest challenge we faced as a group was the issue with BuzzTouch. We decided within a week of finding the mobile application developer that it was perfect for the project. We ran a test of the application attempting to publish an app with just one music venue complete with sources, YouTube links, and quiz questions on what the users learned. After starting the publication process we discovered that Xcode is required for publication of the application. This service is free with a Mac computer to provide a simulation of the application, but to make it available in the app store, purchase of Xcode is required. According to the FAQ’s on the BuzzTouch website, Xcode is available for only $99 a year. At this point in the project we decided to try to find a different route.  We were able to overcome this complication because we tested the application early in the project to ensure it would be available for the deadline. This allowed us ample time to find a solution. We decided to use Google. We put together the tour using Google Earth and Maps to remedy our Buzztouch problem. Getting venue information was the only other notable challenge we faced as group. We emailed several venue owners to get additional information or possibly include an interview in the tour. We did not receive a response from any venue contacted. We started with a list of 25 venues expecting the challenge of getting information, and allowing on one other to cut two or three venues from their share of the list.

The Boise Historic Music Tour serves as a base for a number of other potential apps and websites. Ways to build upon this idea might include:

Expanding the Music Tour into a fully developed tour app. This app could incorporate the venues already listed, as well as any other appropriate venues within the Boise area. As a tour, this app could incorporate GPS locations to queue recorded information for the user to listen to. This information might include history of the venue, larger history of the area, artist information, or a combination of all three.

QR Codes located at various venues could be used for patrons. Rather than being an “active” tour which users download for a specific use, QR codes would provide patrons of each venue the opportunity to find “secret” stashes of information about its history.

The Historic Music Tour could also easily be turned into a walking tour of downtown Boise. Brochures containing information about each venue, along with a map providing a route that stops at each location could be viewed as an app or website, or provided as printed brochures.

Possibilities for including more information on the Tour are abundant as well. If the app remained a website or was converted into a fully functional app, options could be added to increase the user’s interaction with it. Links to current show information, ticket purchasing capabilities, discounts, reservations and reviews are all well within the reach of what may be added to the Tour. 

Other options to expand could also include creating tours for new cities. Although there are a small number of music tour apps for other cities, having a unique format in which history and current day are combined give this Tour greater depth. Besides new cities, tours could be created for a number of historic venues; theaters for instance.  By expanding in this way, the user demographic would be similar and could be easily marketed. It could also reach more people by being able to cover a variety of types of places that are interesting to the general public.

Other individuals or groups creating apps such as this are likely to run into a number of the same problems we did. With that in mind, people should be aware that time is crucial. Time to properly plan, research, and build the app is something that could easily be underestimated. For Historic Music Tour apps such as ours, developers need to have the time to dig into archival materials, microfilm and books, sometimes to just get the basic venue information. Anyone taking on a project like this needs to know how to find primary source material. Be prepared to sift through newspapers to find concert advertisements and tour information. Along these same lines, be ready to actually make connections with people at each venue, as well. Sometimes, actually visiting the place and talking to employees is the best source of information.

Time is also necessary when trying to figure out just how to implement the final product. Be able to go through various programs, build maps, websites, and really play with what is available to find what works the best.

Also, take nothing at face value- for most historians; technology like this is foreign ground. Nothing is as easy or simple as it seems. Be sure to read the fine print and find out costs before you stop your search, otherwise it might come as a rude surprise after a lot of time and effort has already been invested.

Applications such as CityListen: NYC Rock & Roll Tour influenced the model and idea for the project. This tour takes the visitor through New York City on a walking tour, stopping at notable musical spots. Other applications we used include Sutro Media’s Nashville Essential Guide, an application featuring historic sites and entertainment locations in Nashville. The Rock Junket – Rock ‘N Roll East Village Tour, an application featuring music venues and historic music sites marked with pinpoints on a Google Map, also influenced the production of our project. A majority of our information was found in Boise directories, Boise Weekly, The Idaho Statesman, and venue websites, as well as the following sources:

Hart, Arthur A. Western Idaho Fair: A Centennial History. Boise: Western Idaho Fair, 1997.


Ann Morrison Park:

Basque Block:
Basque Museum and Cultural Center:

Big Easy/Knitting Factory:;col1

Egyptian Theater:

Idaho Botanical Garden:

Idaho Center:

Julia Davis Park:,

Morrison Center:

Old Boise/Pengilly’s:

Record Exchange:

The Reef: 

Taco Bell Arena:,

Terrapin Station/Crazy Horse:

Other sources:

The Idaho Statesman archives, via microfilm collection at the Albertson’s Library, Boise State University

Mobile Devices and Public History

In her lecture on mobile devices and museums, Nancy Proctor touched on several important aspects of the new digital public history frontier that I have been concerned with, including accessibility and maintenance. Accessibility is a huge factor to consider in developing mobile applications for museums. It seems like such a waste to develop amazing interactive apps that only a select few museum patrons with the correct devices can experience. It is important to make sure the apps can be used by as many people as possible.

I also appreciated her discussion of marketing. She reminded the audience to budget for marketing the product. Because I am relatively new to the world of smart phones, I am amazed at how many different apps are available when browsing the iTunes Store, and that number is only going to grow in the future. Museums need to make sure that people know about the apps in the first place. Advertising new mobile experiences could be a great way to renew interest in permanent exhibits or a museum as a whole.

Maintenance is something that I always think about when considering the positive and negative aspects of mobile devices. It goes without saying that the information provided should always be current and correct.

In our group project, the tour of historic music venues in Boise, there are several advantages and liabilities for using mobile devices. Because the application encourages touring and visitation of these sites, it is clear that the best way to use it is on a mobile device that people can take with them when they go out. Because we are incorporating sound (YouTube links) into the venue descriptions, mobile devices with headphones will allow users to best experience all of the information available. One problem with creating a mobile tour is the need for continual maintenance as businesses close or change names, website addresses change, and YouTube videos are removed. Marketing is another issue that should be considered so that more Boise music fans will know about the app and how to access it.

I think that developing an app is an excellent, and probably the ideal way to use mobile devices in a public history course. If this is not possible, students should at least use and review some available applications in order to understand the current technology available, discuss advantages and disadvantages, and consider what historians could accomplish with mobile devices in the future. I agree with Nancy Proctor that mobile devices should not be about the technology itself. They should focus on the audience and we should make them as interactive as possible. As mobile technology continues to develop, we should focus on ways to increase the level of visitor participation. Simple methods could include interactive games incorporation the information found in interpretive exhibits, scavenger hunts, or ways to personalize museum tours (think the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books). I also love applications that allow visitors to check in at certain locations. Incorporating points and “prizes,” even if the prize is merely a higher status level within the app, could increase visitation and commerce.

On a final note, I was surprised to learn that some of the first museum podcasts were made by visitors, or “guerrilla” groups as she put it. This shows that there is definitely a market for the use of mobile devices in museums and tourism.

Our Unprotected Heritage

Thomas King’s book was eye-opening, but definitely not surprising. If you had asked me about my knowledge and/or opinion of NEPA and NHPA before reading this book, I would have certainly used the word “inadequate” in my answer, but I would not have been able to give an answer that was nearly as well-thought out.

I did respect King’s opinion that NEPA and HPA do not and should not dictate that all heritage be preserved instead of satisfying present-day needs (15). If he had not have laid that down at the beginning of the book I might have pegged him for a hardcore at-all-costs preservationist. Instead he is advocating for EIA and CRM processes to be taken more seriously, given proper thought and consideration, and to become more than just “getting and giving clearance” for projects (141). This doesn’t seem like it should be a huge problem, but the obstacles standing in the way regarding big business, bureaucracy and the nature of the system itself (EIA and CRM specialists often working for the project proponents themselves) are overwhelming. It was not quite the feel-good book of the year for me, but this subject seems absolutely necessary for people in the public history field to understand.

Ethical Dilemmas, Part 1

The readings this week were eye-opening to say the least. I thought that Larry Cebula’s letter to the Baron Von Munchausen House curators was interesting, as was the response from the curator. I thought that the question Cebula posed to his blog readers at the beginning of the post was something we should all think about, and I hadn’t truly thought about it before. “What is the obligation of a public historian when the history you are presented at a historic site is not right?” I think that Cebula handled it in the best way possible, and I am glad that I read this so I can keep it in the my mind. The curator’s response was certainly disheartening. Should we scrub history of negativity to give our children a more positive outlook on the world? Of course not. It is a shame that there are public historians who feel that we should. I am sure that in many cases this happens because tour guides or historians find that their lives are made easier by avoiding negative subject matter, which is a shame. However, in this instance, it seems the curator was acting out of their own beliefs. This is where the subject of ethics in public history becomes so interesting. If you were to ask the BVM Historic Home curator if she was being “unethical,” I’m sure she would answer, “Of course not!” Especially since her position seemed to be that professors bring negativism into the 21st century, and push students into “hate” mode.

Similar arguments could be made for the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Earl Taylor. Would I say that they are being unethical? Yes, absolutely. But, assuming they truly believe what they are teaching their audiences, followers and students, they would certainly disagree. I think that the case of Joy Masoff, the textbook author, is quite different as one could arguably see a point at which she crossed a line: Using non-scholarly works in her research.

The Last American Pirate

Reading about the “Last American Pirate” was very fun! I scrolled past the first blog post, but unfortunately I read the Wikipedia article and some of the YouTube comments, which spoiled everything for me, but I completely bought it before that.

I loved reading the reflections of Mills Kelly, the professor who taught the class. At first I found myself considering ways in which other academics could object to his methods, but after taking in everything I feel it would be pretty hard to brush off this project entirely. It made me consider just how seriously we take the written word sometimes. I agree with Patrick Murray-John, one of the folks who commented on Kelly’s blog, that it was unsettling in a good way. I’m sure all of us have read something in a book or article that has totally shocked or surprised us, but we don’t really question it if there is a citation, or if the author has some credentials. Now, most of the time information will be correct. But this reminded me to always ask questions, look at sources, and verify information when possible. This was a great exercise.

Reading Recommendations

1)”Lost San Diego” presented by San Diego’s Save Our Heritage Organization.

 For those of you who are into looking at “before and after” stories and photos of historic sites, this is pretty interesting. The reason this project is interesting, though, is the way in which it was put together. It obviously comes from a group who is passionate about their local history, but it serves as a lesson in how not to present this information. Click on the links above the photographs and think about what kinds of information or arguments they could or should have included.

2) Cultural Heritage Tourism success stories

This was linked from Preservation Nation’s website. It is a list of successful heritage tourism programs and many of them certainly made me want to hop in my car or on a plane and visit right away. My favorites are the article on Chicago’s neighborhood tours (“A Cultural Mosaic: Chicago’s Neighborhood Tours”), which includes a “Roots of Chicago Blues and Gospel” tour, and “A Niche in the Northwoods: Michigan’s Great Outdoors Culture Tour.”

3) Walt Disney Family Museum

Finally, a quick video. Dr. Madsen-Brooks mentioned this museum in class due to its poor branding (the museum is actually a museum about the Disney family, rather than a Disney museum for families). As an unabashed Disney history geek, I knew about this museum beforehand but I hadn’t really looked into it. Anyway, while the museum may not be suited for all ages, it is certainly one of the most technologically-advanced museums I have ever seen – it is the definition of the “edutainment” concept we discussed in class. Pretty cool stuff.

Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibits Program

I found the discussion of Heritage Interpretation and the Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street exhibits Program pretty fascinating, considering that it is “the first of its kind in the nation” (324). According to the program’s website ( the first exhibit was installed in 1999. This is pretty striking to me, considering that the basic premise of the program is fairly simple – interpretive signage with historic photographs of the sites. I think that making the signs transparent so you can project your view onto the actual sites is pretty amazing. I’d encourage everyone to check out the website. There is a great video on the main page that describes the program, and there is a gallery of the images used for the sites included in the program.

We have similar projects here in Boise, such as the Chinatown binoculars, and interpretive signs of this nature are more common today, and I can think of several places in Boise where interpretive displays like this could go. Nevertheless, I think that mobile tours and augmented reality are clearly picking up where projects like the one in Ann Arbor have left off.

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.

Museum Politics, Pt. 2

In this week’s reading I found the chapter on the Missouri Botanical Garden (124) particularly interesting because, embarrassingly enough, I have never really thought of botanical gardens as museums. This chapter was very enlightening in that respect. Organizations such as the Missouri Botanical Garden function as you would expect any museum to. They cleverly design exhibits and displays to demonstrate a particular point or idea, in this case with more complicated resources to work with.

If anyone hasn’t checked out the website for the Missouri Botanical Garden, it is worth doing so. They have photos for each section, maps, and some cool videos (including a virtual tour, which is only a YouTube video at the moment). It would be interesting to think about the possibilities for mobile applications for an attraction like this one. Thinking about it briefly, audio would seem to be the best option, as this is a place where your eyes would need to be focused solely on the exhibits.


Museum Politics, Pt. 1

For me, this week’s readings really reinforced the power that historians wield through museums and interpretive signs and displays. The word “interpretive” is incredibly significant. Museums are far from simple presentations of artifacts. The stories told through museum exhibits are not told through the items and information that are present, but are instead told through the items not present, the labeling and interpretation, and even through the positioning of items within exhibits. I do agree with Timothy W. Luke that “cultural realities are defined” in museums.

I found myself laughing as I read his descriptions of the “West as America” exhibition. Not because the exhibit’s subject matter was humorous, but because I kept thinking, “what’s wrong with that?” For someone educated in the manner that I have been, the ideas put forth in “The West as America” do not seem radical at all. I would guess that an exhibition of this nature would not cause as much of an uproar today, and I think this is a reflection of cultural realities being defined through the interpretive work of historians. Exhibitions, especially ones as notable as this one, increase debate, which then works to help our thoughts evolve.

I spent quite a bit of time after reading this week’s chapters digging up more information on the “West as America” exhibition, and I thought I’d link to a couple articles I found the most interesting (the catalog for the exhibit has already been posted, thanks Ellen!)

This is a Time Magazine review of the exhibition from 1991:,9171,972933,00.html

And a History News Network article from 2002 titled, “The Smithsonian Scandal That Wasn’t.”