Boise Basque Tour: A Walking Tour of Basque Historic and Cultural Sites in Boise, Idaho

Our project, a mobile walking tour of Basque historical and cultural sites in downtown Boise, evolved several different times during the course of the semester. We knew that we wanted to create a walking tour that was accessible on a mobile device, but initially we were unsure what form it would take. We first considered creating a paper brochure that would be accessible via a text file (PDF, Word, or other) that would be optimized for viewing on a mobile device. However, this option seemed like it would result in a static brochure with less possibility for interactivity than we wanted. Second, we attempted to build a mobile-optimized website from scratch using a page creation platform that we found available for free online through Since none of us had any solid background in building complex websites, and since the platform was somewhat difficult to figure out, the website that we created using this method was basic and, like the brochure option, seemed like it would be difficult to update or improve. Thus, we finally settled on creating a blog through WordPress that we fashioned to look more like a website than a blog.

In order to determine which sites to include on our tour and figure out what resources were available to us for the project, we met with Patty Miller at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center early on. Patty pointed out sources in the Museum’s archives that contained information about the sites we wanted to include, and assisted us further by providing copies of historical photographs of various Basque sites. We also took photographs of the present-day sites to include side-by-side with the historical snapshots on the mobile site for the walking tour.

Once we gathered the necessary photographs and information, we each chose a handful of sites to write brief histories on. We created a page on our WordPress site for each historical site that includes both text and photographs. The mobile site also includes a map so that visitors can easily locate the sites we chose, a menu on the left-hand side listing all of the sites for easy navigation, and a brief history of the Basques in Boise.

Our research for this project has increased the general knowledge of our group on Basque history in Boise and the unique cultural landscape that has taken root here as those who have left their Basque homeland in Spain have brought many of their traditions to the western United States.  Our project provides a new, more cohesive layer of interpretation for the Basque block by including a brief history of each Basque historical site on one website or on a single printed brochure.  The content on our website provides information about life for the newly arrived Basques in the nineteenth century, the customs they brought with them, their contributions to the foundation of Boise, and their architectural influence on the evolving capitol city.  The Basque block mobile walking tour caters to two different types of potential tourists to the Basque block: those who visit the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and have the desire to view the other historical sites on the block that deal with the same topic, and those who may not be as interested in a museum interpretation of Basque history, but have an interest in the architectural, cultural, and historical significance of this portion of downtown Boise.    The mobile tour gives an excellent introduction to Boise’s Basque history that can function independently or that can augment the experience provided by The Boise Basque Museum and Cultural Center.

The greatest challenge in creating this project stemmed from the fact that none of us had prior experience with mobile devices or mobile website design and implementation. The Wapple platform was difficult to work with for someone who did not possess the necessary vocabulary of web designers, and even WordPress posed some issues with its seemingly basic WYSIWYG editor. Once we figured out how to create menus and pages, however, WordPress has been decidedly easier to work with than any other platform that we considered. Although it is not entirely mobile optimized, the WordPress format allows the site to be viewed on a mobile device in a manner that is sufficient for a walking tour—a success for our limited programming skills.

A further challenge that we encountered was gathering the necessary resources to include in the project, namely historical photographs. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center has a wealth of these materials in its archives, but since many are copyrighted or were not given to the Museum for public use, we were unable to freely collect photographs for use on our mobile site. Patty Miller was of great assistance to us when dealing with this issue, and she was able to procure low-resolution digital copies of several historical photographs as well as obtain permission for us to use them. We had hoped to include audio files of oral histories on the mobile site, but so far we have been unable to do so. Several problems had led to this, including difficulty obtaining permission from surviving family members of those who gave the oral histories, and the necessity of converting audio tapes to digital files. Patty Miller is currently working on both of these issues for us, and we hope to be able to add these materials to our walking tour soon.

We are currently in the process of expanding our project and are searching for funding sources to implement our ideas. Three main areas are being considered for this expansion: the creation of a physical walking tour brochure that can accompany our mobile tour site, the expansion of content on our website, and a means to connect the physical sites on the tour to our online interpretive content.

We are presently in the process of creating a physical walking tour brochure which will be available in Basque, Spanish, and English. Expanding the content of our website will be a more in depth process. In the near feature we would like to add audio files that will make oral histories available and are working with the Basque Museum and Cultural Center to get these oral histories digitized. We would also like to add photos and histories of no-longer existing historical buildings to our website. This will allow us to expand our tour both online and geographically to the River Street area. Lastly, we would like to make our website’s content available in Basque, Spanish, and English to reach a larger and more diverse audience. We are also working with Patty Miller to incorporate QR codes into our project. This would allow mobile users to photograph a QR code on a historical site and use an app to transfer to building’s page on our website.

Expanding our project’s content will require both institutional and financial resources. Institutional resources have been made available by Patty Miller at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. Patty has provided support and encouragement in addition to access to historical photos, documents, oral histories, and an online home for our project.[1] Funding for designing and printing the brochures will hopefully be provided by grants from Bank of America and the City of Boise Department of Arts and History which we are currently in the process of writing.

Our main points of advice would be two. First, it is important to find competent, highly motivated, creative, and overall awesome individuals to collaborate with on a project. This allows the group to confidently assign work to any individual member. The second point of advice also addresses the importance of collaboration. For us working with the Basque Museum was an invaluable resource. They were able to provide excellent historical materials to incorporate into our project, and provided support and guidance on how to procure funding for expansion. As newcomers to the field, working with established public historians and a successful institution was extremely beneficial.

Several essays in Everyday America: Cultural Landscape Studies after J. B. Jackson edited by Paul Groth helped our group contextualize our mobile project as we helped to weave the story of the Basque community into the fibers of the Boise cultural and historical landscape.  The blog post “But I Want You to Think” by Jeremy Boggs also provided some inspiration for our project pushing us to evaluate the information that we gathered from our research to make it relevant to our potential audience and make a case for the importance of Basque history and culture to Boise’s story.  Translating the brochure aspect of our project into Spanish is also part of Boggs’ admonition of considering those who might be interested and making it accessible to a larger demographic.  We looked at several different walking tours and walking tour apps when developing our mobile project and received inspiration from the definitive Boston Freedom Trail App (  The Boston Freedom Trail App adds points of interest that the Freedom Trail lacks and we used this idea to add additional sites to our Basque walking tour website that lack interpretive signage which provides a more complete historical picture for this area of downtown.  We also consulted Racontours, which has mobile tours of New York City ( and Geogad mobile city tours ( that helped us decide what elements such as pictures, maps, and the type of historical, cultural, and architectural content should be implemented into our mobile project.


[1] This will occur in conjunction with the reworking of the Museum’s own website that is currently in progress.

LauriAnn Deaver, Anna Holdorf, and Luke Schleif

Catering to the Niche

I really enjoyed Proctor’s emphasis that looked at content possibilities for mobile applications for museums rather than focusing on cutting edge technologies.  I am not a huge museum fan and this presentation made me realize that one of those reasons is the generic approach provided most exhibits that fail to engage me.  Proctor’s emphasis on using mobile technologies to cater to different niches intrigued me.  I think that this is a great approach to making museums more interactive, more personal, and more adaptable hopefully justifying their existence in the future.  I thought she also made a good point that most people will bring their own devices and that this would change the nature of the technology budget for museums.  I also like the idea that non-museum employees could be involved in creating tours or commenting on exhibits opening many more avenues to reaching a variety of niches that would be impossible for a museum to cater to.

For our mobile project, having an interactive and accessible tour on a mobile device makes it an affordable and easy way to present the information to the general public.  The downside, for me, is a bunch of people walking around downtown looking at their mobile devices as individuals.  I thought that Proctor had a good discussion about how to foster a discussion and group approach with mobile devices that would be interesting to incorporate into our project.  I agree with Anna that mobile devices sound like a good idea in theory for the classroom, but in practice tend to be a huge distraction.  There are many things that a mobile device could do to augment a history class (pictures, timelines, interactive maps, etc.) but I also think that facebook, twitter, and email would get just as much attention in a classroom setting.  I do, however, like the idea of utilizing mobile devices out of class for projects and to enhance the homework experience.  I also really love the idea of incorporating mobile technologies into public history.  I think Proctor was right in showing that people tend to be really interested in niche topics, and if these topics were addressed in more individualized mobile history projects public history would be more effective.

Bombing Boise?

I experienced similar struggles with the acronym laden text that preaches doom and gloom for any future protection of cultural, historical, or even environmental landscapes in the face of unquenchable expansion and development.  However, I will give TFK some credit for his more liberal understanding regarding what should be considered when altering a landscape.  I thought his discussion of landscape and what can be considered significant culturally was a good starting point for changing how these “light green” laws are approached.  I also thought that King made a good point when he brought up cumulative effects on the landscape.  For some reason, as humans we have a hard time conceptualizing how our actions effect the environment and how these environmental consequences will eventually come back to affect us.  I have been really interested this past year in environmental justice, and how these projects we undertake can negatively impact racial minorities and poorer classes in the U.S. in disproportionate numbers.  There seems to be little we can do to prevent these environmental disasters from happening even though prevention would save millions of dollars spent on cleanup, potential loss of property, and untold consequences on the health of those who live in those areas.  I wish TFK would have made some suggestions on how change the governmental structure more so that it protects the land and the people, rather than business and government interests.

Using History

The overarching problem in the articles we read this week seems to be a lack of peer review, either because it is not normally part of the specific field (smaller museums) or because the peer reviewers failed (Virginia text book).  The most appalling problem is that the museum curator (from the “Munchausen” Museum) was upset to receive any criticism and responded with erroneous assertions.  The museum curator mentioned that discussing slavery would make young black students “hate the messenger,” but how can they trust the “messenger” if it fails to acknowledge their own personal history because the museum acts as if it is shameful or dirty.  The text book writer seemed ambivalent about having her mistake caught and unconcerned about using the internet as her only source of information for claiming that there were black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.  Clearly an ethical line was crossed in allowing text books used in public schools to contain information that has no basis in truth.

The “Conservative Class on the Found Fathers” article reminded me of the MLK website we looked at in class.  The information seems to fit together and make sense on the surface, but falls apart quickly with even a small amount of critical analysis.  It seems unfortunate to pass off pseudo-history on somewhat unsuspecting students, but the students in this case seem to pay for the type of history they want to hear.  These classes seem more upfront with their agenda (however warped it is).  It seems like if Earl Taylor wanted to be considered an academic historian or made claims as such, this might be crossing an ethical line, but he does not necessarily make claims of this nature.  He caters to a private audience who wants this biased view of history.  It is unfortunate that he is fueling an erroneous view of the Founding Fathers, but I highly doubt that he changed any of the views his students held prior to the class.  (On a more random note: this article did appear to have a weird bias against home schooled kids which seemed unfair and odd.)   “They Have Blood on Their Hands” has a similar problem with the “Founding Fathers” article where history is being distorted to serve a minority, but it is a private affair, so it would be hard to regulate it.  Celebrating the Confederacy while ignoring slavery is ignorant and in poor taste, but they are upfront with their bias and are catering to a narrow audience who is demanding this version of history.


I bought “The Last Pirate” hook, line, and sinker.  I started at the beginning of the blog and read how Jane came up with her idea for her research paper, how she struggled to find the sources she needed, and then found her smoking gun with the will of Edmund Owens.  I kept thinking “this is what I love about history!” and “I should do a blog about my research for my thesis (not nearly as compelling as pirates).”  In the last post, when I discovered that it was a hoax, I was somewhat disappointed, but also it was kind of exhilarating to have a good surprise perpetrated on me like that.

Like Stephanie, I have been mulling over the reasons why I was so easily duped by this.  For me, the links, the videos, the story about Jane were all very convincing.  But, I also really wanted to believe the whole thing.  The story resonated with the best-case scenario of historical research that I have in my head, where if you work hard enough you can find exactly what you want and really break new ground.  I thought that the class that made the blog sounded like an interesting premise.  It sounds like it proved its point effectively and truly engaged the students who participated.  I am not sure that I would ever have the guts to teach that class.

John Paul Stevens is my Homeboy

One of my favorite history-related sites to visit is the Library of Congress collection of historic photograph and print collections.  I love to look through the different groups of photos (they have thousands so I have never actually seen any of the collections all the way through.  My favorite are the WPA posters; particularly the 1930’s prints for the National Parks.

WPA Prints

I love tongue-in-cheek history that can be shared with everyone.  This next link satisfies this desire.  The other T-shirts are also funny.

Girl Power-Now with Kagan!

This next post isn’t necessarily history, but it did remind of some of discussions on preservation.  I thought that this was a unique approach to temporarily add value to certain historic but neglected properties.

Before I die: NOLA

These links are a little random, but so are my historical interests.

“The greenest building…is the one that is already built.”

I enjoyed the chapters on preservation and I thought that the book did a great job giving concise explanations of everything and then providing relevant examples that exemplified different theories on historic preservation.  When I finished chapter nine, and read that we were not going to look at chapter ten on preservationists partnering with environmental movements I was a little disappointed.  I decided to read through it anyway because I found myself truly intrigued with the idea of re-purposing historical buildings.  I believe that this is one of the most effective compromises between the need to preserve significant buildings and districts in our cities and towns without having wasted real estate.  It also limits unnecessary urban sprawl and expansion by having the existing buildings evolve with the needs of the community.  During my spring break travels I stopped at an old train depot with the facade intact, but the interior had been renovated to accommodate a Mexican Restaurant.  I remembered the Starbucks discussion from the reading that mentioned adding value, and in this particular instance it went both ways.  The restaurant had a great eclectic ambiance from the already existing structure and the old depot benefited from having a tenant the respected the historical value of the building and had an incentive to maintain it.  I realize that there are many obstacles to maintaining a historical building or home, but it was nice to see a successful example.  I would love to see more of this in Boise; there is something so compelling about blending historic architecture with newer businesses.

Eisenman’s Arrow

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

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

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

“Environmental Rant (148)”

After reading “Southwestern Environments as Hyperreality: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum” by Timothy Luke there are a lot of contradictions and unresolved issues I would love for him to explain.  I agreed that the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum romanticized the desert landscape of Arizona perpetuating a cultural landscape myth of exotic mystery emanating from the dirt, rock formations, and cacti.  The danger of having visitors or residents in Arizona believe in this hyperreality of an engineered landscape attracts more people to this fragile environment and encourages residential over-development.  Bringing more residential and commercial development to the area starkly contrasts with the museum’s desire to promote conservation and environmentalist policies.

Luke seems to be affronted by the museum for Nature itself (or herself).   He claims, “if [the] tourists went elsewhere, and if the developers closed out their many construction projects, the Sonoran Desert might well thrive as it did during the four millenia prior to the Arizona territory’s acquisition by the United States of America (162).”  This particular quotation sums up many of the issues I had with this chapter.  I will try to ignore Luke’s oversight in assuming that only white Americans have ever had any influence on the environment of Arizona, but he even seems to classify humans as non-human nature in this chapter.  Luke also fails to offer any solutions on how this unique environment could be interpreted for a wider audience who don’t have the stamina to wander around the desert and fend of snakes for days at a time.  Luke made some interesting points about how the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum struggles to live up to its environmental and conservationists aims and the dangers posed by presenting a hyperreality to the public.  However, he fails to offer a viable solution (other than shutting down the museum completely) that would help this museum defend the environment it is trying to portray.