Group Authored Reflection Paper

The River Street Walking Tour Project had several learning objectives. The first object was to locate sites of significance to the Boise African American community on River Street and to gain an appreciation for notable residents and cultural mores of this community. The second learning objective was to better understand the trajectory of African American history on River Street and in Boise as a whole. The last was to gain access to tools necessary to do further research into this history that is often overlooked in more traditional educational activities.

Project designers met the first learning objective through the design and execution of the walking tour itself. Participants are given a brochure as a guide to begin the tour and physically experience each site and its unique history through the augmented reality app content. Each site has its own combination of audio clips, photographs, and biographies of former residents of River Street, allowing the user to gain a more intimate glimpse of life in historic Boise.

In light of the new stadium being built on River Street, patterns of urban renewal, relocation of ethnic neighborhoods, and the displacement of people of color continue to mask the African American history in Boise and in urban areas all over the United States. The walking tour attempts to preserve some of the history so commonly lost in the destruction of African American communities during phases of commercial developments intended to ‘improve’ urban areas. This history is every bit as important to the character of Boise’s communities as the dominant narrative, and gives a greater context to the current diversity of Boise’s population.

The final learning objective was met through the inclusion of a list of places to gain more information after the tour and its quiz are completed. These places include the Idaho Black History Museum, the Idaho State Archives, books authored by local historians, Bill White’s digital map of River Street, and contributions from stakeholders. These materials can be accessed online or in person by an interested participant. By receiving input from local educators and stakeholders, we can continue to improve the presentation of this valuable information and have the potential for the inclusion of more stops on the tour in the future. Involving local school districts expands the knowledge of students and allows national issues to be more relatable.

As always, there are unforeseen challenges in developing a functioning project. In particular, communication can be difficult when there are many people involved in the creative process. Additionally, the attempt to include cutting edge technology in an educational project can be challenging when the technology itself is unfamiliar. Similarly, when project designers themselves do not have a personal grasp of the needs of a community, it can be difficult to ascertain the proper way to present deeply personal information in a neutral and educational manner. Project designers had to go out of their way to ensure that the stories being told were authentic to the stakeholder’s experience.

Communication difficulties were alleviated through near constant email contact and in-person discussion at design meetings. These meetings allowed for clarification issues to be resolved quickly and civilly with no opportunity for further confusion. Additionally, constant contact eliminated the possibility for unaddressed errors. Detailed research and hands on experience with Augmented Reality platforms, as well as the careful examination of other projects that utilized the same technology provided deeper comprehension of the technology’s possibilities.

Designers conducted interviews with stakeholders and worked closely with historians of the River Street area in order to properly vet the content of the app. Philip Thompson, the director of the Idaho Black History Museum, agreed to consult closely with the design team to ensure that the finished product would be both factually accurate and true to the experience of River Street’s original residents. Additional resources were provided by Boise State’s Special Collections and Archives, as well as from Boise State faculty advisors.

This project was inspired in part by Spokane Historical, which is a Curatescape created walking tour of the historical districts in Spokane, Washington. Additional inspiration was drawn from Bill White’s Google Maps representation of River Street. Jarrier et al.’s article on education techniques concerning mediation devices in museums described a deeper and more emotional connection with the history presented than more traditional interpretations were capable of inspiring. The River Street Walking Tour wanted to harness that deeper emotional connection that the authors described, which influenced both the app content and the platform used to deliver it.

The overall goal of the River Street Walking Tour is to deepen the connection of Boise’s people with its relatively unknown history. This is done in a less formal setting than a classroom could provide, increasing the likelihood that the information will be retained. By allowing participants to be in a particular location and to compare historical photographs with current realities, the walking tour allows the participants to feel physically connected to the history that is conveyed. Participation in the walking tour is free of cost and accessible to any interested party through the use of ADA compliance features. This is more important than ever, now that a large portion of River Street will be bulldozed to make way for a stadium and commercial district. This mirrors a similar situation in Chavez Ravine, where the Dodger’s Stadium obliterated a Mexican American community and the dearly held traditions therein. In the face of unfortunate economic realities of urban renewal efforts, the River Street Walking Tour will preserve a fraction of a community often overlooked by society as a whole.




Berg, Sven. “Downtown Boise baseball, soccer stadium in the works at Americana and Shoreline.” Idaho Statesman, February 10, 2017. Accessed April 23, 2017.


“Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story,” Independent Lens. Accessed April 23, 2017.


Eastern Washington University. “Spokane Historical.”, Accessed February 23, 2017.


Gruenewald, David A., Nancy Coppleman, and Anna Elam. “Our Place in History: Inspiring Place-Based Social History in Schools and Communities.” The Journal of Museum Education Vol. 32, No. 3 (2007): 233-242. Accessed April 22, 2017.


Holton, William. “Walking Tours for Teaching Urban History in Boston and Other Cities.” OAH Magazine of History Vol. 5, No. 2 Urban History (Fall, 1990): 14-19. Accessed April 25, 2017.


Jarrier, Elodie, and Dominique Bourgeon-Renault. “Impact of Medication Devices on the Museum Visit Experience and on Visitor’s Behavioural Intentions.” International Journal of Art’s Management Vol. 15, No. 1 (2012): 18-29. Accessed April 24, 2017.


Shallat, Todd. Ethnic Landmarks: Ten Historic Places that Define the City of Trees. Boise: The College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, Boise State University, 2007.


White, Bill. “River Street Digital History Project”. Accessed April 19, 2017.

Dark Heritage

Dark Tourism is a funny thing that says an awful lot about the psychology of human beings. While I have participated in more than my fare share of this kind of tourism (my mother LOVES haunted hotels and I’ve been to all kinds of battlefields), there were some kinds of sites listed in the articles that I would have never thought of as ‘dark tourism locations.’ One type of heritage site I would not have classified among these other sites was slavery heritage sites. First, I was unaware that there was an active market for slavery heritage dark tourism outside of the associated Civil War sites. Second I had never considered purely educational sites to be a part of dark tourism, which is silly because the author of the Dark Tourism Spectrum article makes a great case as to why particular exhibits or entire museums would fall somewhere along that spectrum. What was obvious to me when looking at the Old Pen and Little Bighorn was much less obvious when considering the Holocaust Museum. Perhaps I am under the influence of more biases than I had previously considered.

I had also not fully considered the political and moral implications of some kinds of dark tourism. Certainly the photo series “Yolocaust” had made me reconsider what proper reverence for sites of great tragedy looks like. But I had not taken the cognitive leap to the assumption that there is a certain level of expected exploitation present at things like the human body exhibits in medical museums. I am interested to see how popular dark tourism continues to be in the intervening years.

We did it to Ourselves

After reflecting on heritage protection laws, the only thing I can see when I close my eyes are the never-ending news articles on my Facebook wall detailing which government organizations the current administration is hell-bent on defunding. Is BigCorp going to build the thing at the place you love? Is that thing going to have a negative impact on the environment there? Too bad, we got rid of the EPA and all the other regulatory organizations, there’s no one left to do the evaluations you requested! Hope you like a little toxic waste with your childhood memories and cultural significance! At least these laws are consistent. Like our tax laws, they are nigh incomprehensible to someone that does not have years to figure out how they are actually supposed to work.

I agree with the author that just because a place has significance for one person does not mean that it is significant for the whole nation. “Progress” (whatever that is) should not be completely derailed for everyone as a whole just to save a tiny patch of land that is not important to more than one person. But I cannot help but think we could do better than this. Wilderness areas are important. National Parks are important. Conservation of our disappearing species is important. The newest installment of that big-box store? That one seam of dirty fossil fuel that cannot hope to save a dying industry dead in the middle of that sacred mountain? One developer’s pocket book? I cannot call these things significant on the same level.

I know I’m too sentimental for today’s economic realities. I really thought that I had a comprehensive list of things that I should be angry at congress about. We have got to do more or there will not be much of these types of sites left to bulldoze and build over.


In reading through the descriptions of the Digital Humanities Advancement Grant and the Digital Projects for the Public Grant, I noticed several similarities in their subject areas. The Digital Humanities Advancement Grant covers a project through all stages of its development, from early fact-finding through production and implementation. The Digital Projects for the Public grant requires that the portion of a project covered by the grant be entirely digital and only supports one stage of development, though it can be any stage. Both of these grants are aimed at presenting information to the public at large and attracting new audiences via whatever it is the project is funding.

Looking at the narrative samples for the two kinds of grants, it is immediately obvious why they were funded. Both grants took the time to explicitly lay out what their project was, what the money would be used for, the timeline for goals to be reached, and clear ties to the humanities. I looked at the Digital Archaeology (DHA) grant and the Digital Environmental History of the Americas (DPP) grant, and both of them read in a similar fashion. Both projects wanted to utilize technology to advance the general understanding of their field among the general public. It is good that these websites have examples of the narrative portion of grants that were funded as they allow new applicants to see what a strong narrative looks like. As this is the first section that can make or break a grant application, having these examples to look at wastes far less time than having to guess.

Job Markets and Public History

This week’s readings were simultaneously filled with hope and depression. On the brighter side, there are many more positions available to students of history than I had thought. Far beyond the Professor/Researcher dichotomy, there are dozens of different kinds of work that can be done with a Master’s Degree or better. On the depressing side, according to the BLS search results, these occupations are growing at far below the average 7%/year (with the exception of archivists) and competition for what positions do get created is high. I suppose I’ll take that as motivation to look harder for a good PhD program, though even that degree isn’t a one-way ticket to being employed.

Part of this depression in job growth is due to the overall lack of emphasis on the importance of the Liberal Arts in general and History in particular that our nation has developed in the last fifty years. While it is true that the STEM fields are incredibly important, without a proper understanding of history those programs of study lose a valuable part of their context and a good deal of the most interesting stories surrounding them. It’s a pity that rather than emphasizing education of all sorts, this nation has all but declared fully half the human experience as worthless.



Reading through these articles, as well as many of the class’s responses, highlighted an aspect of the community’s wider opinion of reenactment that I suppose I was unaware of.  Despite the many years of being made fun of for doing reenactments, no one has ever suggested that by choreographing sword duels and discussing the finer points of foam-tipped archery that I am perpetuating toxic white masculinity. No one has pointed at my hobby and called it inherently racist or sexist before. While these articles in particular focused on black powder reenacting in the United States, there are legitimately dozens of other kinds of reenactments that romanticize the past in similarly historically problematic ways that do not seem to carry the emotionally-charged connotations as those covered in the articles for this week.

Kowalcyzk suggests that the problem rests not in reenacting itself, but in the stories that we choose to tell. The Historiann article suggests that reenactment is a white thing. Both seem to think that the practice is rooted in a deep seated need to return to a time when white men were in control of everything, and that reenactors respond to the rush this simulated power gives them. For some, I’m sure that is true, if subconsciously rather than overtly. In any case, it is interesting to see an argument constructed by non-reenactors as to why so many who engage in the hobby are older, white, and male. I can tell you that reenacting is prohibitively expensive, if you do not have parents willing to fund your eccentricities.

As for Wikipedia, I suppose I can see both sides. As an expert in the field, it would be frustrating to have someone else tell you that incorrect sources are more credible than you are, without a helpful explanation as to why. As for Wikipedia, I imagine they are overworked and underfunded, having to spend much of their time looking for vandalizations. Since many denizens of the internet cannot help but destroy nice things someone else has created, I imagine it makes the editors rather testy to have someone repeatedly change a page after being told no.

More Historic Preservation

It is interesting to me that there are so many steps to establishing a building’s significance before it can be preserved. It is good that the community seems to be very involved in the selection and preservation process, since the building is likely to be something they have to look at every day. It does concern me that so few communities seem invested in which areas of their cities are preserved. I feel like the people might be more invested in preserving the heritage of an area if they felt more connected to its history.

I feel like architectural preservation efforts are important, even if I will never be able to recognize a classic example of the colonial style on sight. I think it is good that more emphasis on preserving ‘recent’ historical places, such those built in the sixties and seventies, as rapid urban growth tends to destroy those places before they’ve hit the magic fifty-years-old mark. I suppose I had not considered that the architectural style of a building would contribute in some way to the history of a community, but I am glad that there are people who take an interest in such things. Old buildings are some of the most intriguing locations on city tours and if historic districts rely on tourism, then preserving as many as possible would be very beneficial to them. It does concern me that so many of the criteria for preservation are highly subjective.

Of equal concern is the possibility that companies might bully city planners into approving poor construction project plans with the threat of litigation. I am fully aware that such corporate goons are out there, but it makes me angry to think about what archaeological material may have been lost through intimidation and a lack of resources that small communities can use to protect themselves. More and more it is apparent that history and community significance consistently loses out to greed and self-interest, and what a pity that is.


Historic Preservation

I had no idea that historic preservation efforts had to jump through so many hoops to get places of historic significance placed on a registry of some kind. I am continually surprised at the blase attitude the government seems to have toward preserving sites that are powerful reminders of our history. It seems to me that more emphasis should be placed on protecting these important landmarks. I was also not aware that being on a national registry for historic places did not offer protection from private or government projects that would impact the site in some way. It does not make much sense to force preservationists to go through months of paperwork only to have their registered site impacted negatively by someone else’s project.

I had not given much thought to why houses and other buildings tended to be described by their architectural style. Giving a historic building several layers of context is extremely important for understanding why it should be preserved. Knowing that a building is an original colonial style home helps to demonstrate the changes in architecture over time. I feel like the more important contextualization method is that of place. Regardless of what style each building in a particular neighborhood or city block happens to be, there is much to be learned from how those buildings interact with one another. How a city is planned and developed can tell you a lot about its people.

The threatened sites page on the Preservation Idaho site brought home some of these principles in a way that simply reading about them could not. Even if a building is not demolished for the sake of additional parking lots, covering it over with a facade or allowing it to simply fall apart though neglect does the same amount of damage to historic places. I imagine that it is difficult to provide the capital and man-power to maintain these sites when the city itself is actively working against a preservation effort.


Inclusiveness in Museums

This week’s readings pointed out a sad reality to me– that inclusiveness in museums requires a directive,  that diversity is somehow frightening, and that those who have been forced to flee their homes in other places feel shut out from the few places that contain pieces of their heritage. It was not something I’ve ever had to consider, since the vast majority (7/8) of my own heritage comes from European immigrants, and I’m not arrogant enough to claim much knowledge of the Cherokee/Creek cultures that make up the rest of it. It just seems that something so common sense as “These people make up part of the population, therefore their stories should be told” shouldn’t have to be a mandate. I understand that it is this way, and why it is this way, but I’m still sad that it ever came to that.

It also bothers me that people would attend the Immigration Museum looking for a fight. The museum exists to celebrate the contributions that immigrants make, all of which were vital in the construction and achievement of America and its famous Dream. Looking to pick a fight with curators surrounded by the evidence of immigrant excellence is defeatist at best. It’s a shame that these people don’t take a hard look at their own logic before blindly acting on misdirected rage.

I do think it is important that the conversation about artifacts brought from war-torn places is being re-evaluated. The article about immigrants from Syria to Germany put this many-faceted issue into better context. Is it unfortunate that these artifacts were taken from their country of origin? Yes. Is it important that these artifacts are protected from malicious destruction? Also yes. With organizations like ISIS targeting ancient sites and ephemera I can’t help but be grateful for those early archaeologists (tomb raiders?) and their light fingers. It is good that these museums are seeking volunteers from these regions to better contextualize their collections; I had not considered that such exhibitions would aid in the integration process. Hopefully more aspects of American society begin to better understand why representation matters so much to under-represented groups.


Interview With an Archivist

Dr. Cheryl Oestreicher has held many positions in her career but none she found as fulfilling as working as a library archivist. It was not her first choice–she did not attend library school until her late twenties, and only chose archival work halfway through her program–but little makes her happier than working with the general public to uncover pieces of the historical narrative buried in special collections. Dr. Oestreicher began her career in the archives excited about the collections she could preserve and has continued it because she is excited about the people who wish to work with them.

The Boise State Library Special Collections and Archives require several different kinds of work in order to function. Someone must seek out or accept collections for donation, which means that the archive must have a clear idea in mind of what kinds of collections they wish to keep and what to pass on. Space is always a limiting factor in an archive, particularly since the stacks where collections are stored generally require temperature and humidity regulation. Since an archive cannot house everything, someone has to judge whether the collection is worth keeping–a tricky prospect for an archivist. Next, someone must process the collection. This can be as simple as labeling folders or boxes or as intense as itemizing and describing each piece. Later that collection must be added to the catalog, as a collection is hardly useful if no one knows an archive has it. Additional work can include digitization, cross-referencing items with other collections, and interpreting the collection to create public history installations like interactive timelines or exhibits. Dr. Oestreicher has done it all.

Most if not all archivists require a masters or doctorate in one of the library sciences. Very few have any background in history, and while some archives build exhibits that is not their main focus. The majority of archives exist to serve a curatorial function, and the Boise State archive is not an exception. The archive works with a variety of different kinds of people, from faculty and students to amateur historians and curious members of the public. Dr. Oestreicher has also worked with researchers from the National Science Foundation and researchers from other countries who are interested in topics covered by the special collections the library owns. The Frank Church Papers are by far the most utilized collection, but many others have fueled important projects.

Many archives are funded by the institution they are attached to and accept donations to further expand their capabilities. Collections are often donated to the archive, though some actively seek out and purchase famous or desirable collections. Dr. Oestreicher and her team are lucky in that they have the ability to chose which collections or projects they would like to work with and are able to develop their public history installations from there. While a small exhibit in the windows of the library features some of the archive’s pieces, the primary interest of the archive is not to track how many people are stopping  by to look at them. The archive has also done a fair amount of digitization, either at the behest of an interested party or because the archive itself believes that the collections will be of interest to the public. Dr. Oestreicher’s favorite public history piece that has been produced in the last few years is the timeline of Boise State’s campus that features pictures of the old buildings and tidbits of the University’s past. The user response to this timeline has been overwhelmingly positive, and the archive plans to do more like it soon.

Dr. Oestreicher had some advice for those who wished to get involved with archives. So many people want to work for an archive because they believe they will be in a back room processing collections all day, and will not have to deal with the public. She freely admits that is what appealed to her the most when she was first choosing this career. However, she has found that even in her time spent processing collections for the Atlanta library she used to work for, she still had to spend a certain amount of time talking with the donors in order to properly label things. Over time, more and more of her job consisted of interacting with the public in some way. This interaction is now the most fulfilling part of her work in ways she never thought it would be. Being an archivist is not just about the ‘stuff;’ it is about the new knowledge gained from projects that utilize that ‘stuff.’