Changing the canvas on which we paint history.

The Spatial History Project at Stanford was fascinating. Reviewing the Shaping the West project was helpful in understanding what they are trying to do and how many avenues of history that can connect to the project. For example, while the project focused more so on California it leaves that possibility of other states adding to the model they have set up. In a sense, we could set up a transcontinental spatial history project. Furthermore, it can be linked to all other realms of history how the railroad were impacted socially, politically, and economically. I like the new use for primary sources, it made me question how accurate or available the Union Pacific railroad’s records are? Since the company is still in business, it would seem that many records may still be intact and available.  If you have the time I would recommend reading Richard White’s What is Spatial History article. He gives examples of the other spatial history projects going on at the Stanford. He introduces how spatial history as different from “normal history.” The first of his five reasons mirrors the explanation of Landscapes “our projects are collaborative.” This project as whole reminds me of Jackson’s idea of landscapes; I think Jackson would have been supportive of their efforts.

“The Beginning of the Road” illustrated how technology has made projects, such as Alexander Hawkins idea, much easier to visualize and understand.  While Scott Berg’s article was interesting, at times it was hard follow and understand what was Hawkins’ project. I watched the Visualizing Early Washington clip and it helped me to finally “see” what Hawkins wanted to do.  This article brought up several good points. First of those points was: I was a shocked as Dan Bailey that the library would not have any books on the Washington D.C. landscape. It made me question how many other pieces of “expected history” are missing. I have run into this problem with my own master’s thesis. I had expected books and articles to be written about the Merci Train and have yet to find a legitimate book. The second point brought to light, again by Bailey, was the history drives technology. I have never thought of it this way.  However, his point is valid. Projects such as Hawkins’ are able to literally come to life and be presented to a wider audience.

I was excited to look at the findings for the CHNM labs. The website is helpful in making these free and all already created data bases for museum use. But it was not what I expected. I thought it was similar to the “7 Way Mobile Apps are Enriching Historical Tourism.” I understand that these apps and sites are available, but are they being used? I want numbers! I want to be able to see that people are using these available digital histories. I think it would be extremely helpful to rate these program on their popularity and, if possible, who is using them? Are they being used by the general public, in classrooms, or in museums? That being said, the website is an invaluable as a tool to those teaching history. I was drawn to the link “digital campus” where bi-weekly discussions about technology and history are recorded and open to comments. I was disappointed to see that the discussions do not appear as frequent as displayed and only one or two people have contributed to the discussions. This website has great potential to assist in several venues on history and that are overlooked. On an end note I really enjoyed exploring the “Lost Musuem.”

Public History Career

I have been interning at the Idaho State Historical museum now for over a year. I have always been interested in the difference between archival work versus museum studies. I do not think I would enjoy working with documents as I do artifacts. I chose to interview research assistant Elizabeth Shaver at the Idaho State Archives. What follows is her interview with my questions and her answers in italics and then my thoughts one each answer in comparison to my intern experience.

What path did you take to get to you current position? Did it require a certain degree or internship?


 I have a degree in Museum Studies/Art Education from CSU Monterey Bay and am working on a Masters of Applied Science in Security Administration at the University of Denver. I did an internship with the Fort Ord Museum and Archives before graduating and taking a position at the Monterey Museum of Art and then moved onto the City of Monterey’s Artifact Specialist. I moved to Boise and saw a position offered with the Idaho State Archives as a research assistant.
I am always been interested in the other majors that universities offer. Museum studies/ art education sounds very specialized. I think it would be difficult to find a job with that specific degree. Her answer though illustrates the variety of occupations open to that degree. Her masters degree is “applied” which I loved. To me the “applied” studies give a hands on experience that, I think, a lot of employers are looking for. Internships give the on the job training that you are expected to know once hired.

What kind of projects do you work on?

I work on patron requests into family and general subject information as well as fulfilling the requests of city, state, and county agencies for records. Also, I work on the disaster and emergency response plans for the Idaho State Archives.


 This is exactly the answer I would see from the registrars I work with at the museum, public interaction to internal requests with the historical society. This has always appealed to me because it is an assortment of projects. I like to always be working on something new constantly.

What kinds of people (demographics, occupations, ect.) do you typically work with?


I work with the general public, professional researchers, and employees of different government agencies.


Again, this is similar to the museum field.

Do you have autonomy to pick your own projects, or are projects generally assigned to you by others in you organization or elsewhere?

I have some input in the projects that I work on, but the majority of projects outside of research requests are assigned to me by my supervisor.


 If I had the chance to interview other occupations in the field of history, I would be interested to find one that allowed for autonomy to your own projects. While I enjoy working with the public and other researchers it would be nice to have a project going that was vested in my interest and hopefully by employer’s interest as well.


What are current issues in your field?


Management of electronic records is a major topic of conversation in the archives field.


 This is also so an issue for the museum. We have to not only convert our records to electronic, but keep our electronic programs up to date. This way they are more user friendly and would encourage more public use. 

What skills are expected of applicants for an entry-level position?


I would expect that an entry-leveled position candidate has a fundamental understanding of how to process and catalogue a collection. Knowledge of electronic records management is also essential. A candidate to have public speaking and customer service skills to be able to work with the general public and be able to clear explain what an archives is.


 In the field of history, and other fields I am sure, an internship is invaluable to job training. Not only does it familiarize you with the cataloguing systems set up, but should introduce you to electronic record management.  I believe what she is saying is that an internship enables am entry level candidate with the confidence to explain the field that they want to work in. I like that she noted customer service. I think customer service “phone jobs” are overlooked as a valuable skill. My undergraduate education was paid for by my customer service job. I went through numerous paid trainings on how to handle the general public from calming down a tense situation to conveying a point in a concise manner. I would argue that these skills are needed for any “applied” field that wants to engage the public.

What level of education is necessary for advancement to the different levels of this profession? Are there special degrees that are favored, and if so what they?


A masters degree is essential to advance in this field. The preferred course of study would be in Information and Library Sciences focusing on Archives or masters in IT administration. Any field of study should include electronic records management and the function and structure of government.


I think it is interesting that she mentions an IT degree here. It shows the field of history trying to embrace technology. It would not surprise me to see IT classes as required courses for any major in the near future. It could be argued that it is needed now. Advancement in any field seems linked to education combined with technology level.
What advise do you have for people interested in entering this field?


The best advice I can give is to participate in professional organizations and make professional contacts.

Get yourself known. Again this is something that is gained via internship opportunities in my opinion. This interview illustrated to me that variety of jobs out there for the field of history/ museum studies and the path that will help you get there.


The point of applied historical research is to involve the public. Not only to involve the public, but to get them as excited about history as the historian. I agree with the article “But I want you to think” that all three parts, entice, inform and invoke are need to make a successful website. The part that I find difficult is how you entice your audience. Should we do “focus-group testing, user testing, and marketing”? That is difficult to for digital humanities and I dislike the idea of marketing the idea. History is not product to be sold.  Using students a test group is an obvious answer, but the general public is more than students. How do we get them involved?  The “7 Way Mobile Apps are Enriching Historical Tourism” helped me see what kind of mobile applications are already available to the general public. While informative on the applications, I would like to know how much use these applications get. Are they made and hardly used, are they used by tourists, students, or a local public? A study on who is using the already available applications would open up which ones need more work or what is working best for the user.

In creating an application available for historical information, the last thing I want is a tourist walking downtown staring at their Smartphone rather than engaging with the landscape around them. I am not sure I quite understand the augmented reality concept, but I understand that we take the user out the current landscape to engage another. I see the comparative value for the audience, but the augmented reality game takes away the “think for yourself” part for me. I also dislike the idea that there is just one alternate landscape, for example, the “Civil War Augmented Reality Project” that all you to look back via “pay binoculars” to see Civil War landscape. Could that landscape have been used for anything else since the Civil War? What happened to the landscape during reconstruction, the roaring twenties, or in the era of the greatest generation?

“Haunts: Place, Play, and Trauma” takes an interesting angle to getting the public involved in places and finding the secret information on spaces and letting the user add to it. But I have to ask the question that is posed in Gowalla article “ok, so what does any of the have to do with educations?”  The ideas in the Gowalla article are excellent. I think museums lack interaction with the visitor. Creating applications that not only engages the visitor, but also encourages going to other museums. This is excellent. These could give a much needed revival to museums if provided to the public. It would “market” to younger audience.

For the Play the Past website, I think the idea is great. My favorite part is it allows for
“guest authors” encouraging users to not only engage with history via games, but add their thoughts to it. As for the youtube music video, I loved it! I posted it on my facebook. The comments on the video were intriguing, several high school age students posted their history teachers should them this and debate had been raised about slavery. I think the mask of a username on a website may allow for these high school students to voice their thoughts that they may otherwise be afraid to speak in class in front of their peers. There is no way I can prove they were high school students, but their arguments and answers mirror that of a textbook. So maybe they are listening in class. 😉

If you have ever heard the phrase “Well-behaved women seldom make history” then you have heard the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Often the saying is used to encourage misbehavior from women. For Ulrich, it meant that we need to search for the silent figures that do not always make history headlines. Ulrich wrote a popular book A Midwife’s Tale. In her book she follows the diary of a midwife, Martha Ballard, in Maine. Her book is written using several primary sources. The most important primary source she used was the diary of Martha Ballard. In my final semester as an undergrad student, Ulrich spoke to a class of students about the importance of primary sources. The website DoHistory encourages the public to engage with primary sources. The website is created by Film Study Center, Harvard University and hosted by Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. Ulrich is currently a professor at Harvard.

DoHistory reaches out to several interests. They focus on seven areas that connect to the Martha Ballard’s diary. These areas are: Martha Ballard, genealogy, how to use primary sources, midwifery and herbal medicine, teaching with this website, diaries, and films about the past. The project’s objective is stated in the “about the site”

The website is intended to be an example of how to piece history together. They use Martha Ballard as case study. The website gives access to Ballard’s diary in two ways. It show the diary transcribed and in its original form. This section of the website allows the user to “Explore the Diary” or “Practice reading the Diary.” The main page of the website gives full access to the Ulrich’s book and the PBS film made after Ulrich’s book. The “Archive of Primary Documents” gives examples of the ample primary sources that are available for study. The “Doing History” link shows a model of how to compare and contrast primary documents. The “On Your Own” link

gives helpful resources to move forward with your own research projects. The “On Your Own” link illustrates the websites purpose, to promote the user to research other primary documents in history, particularly, to do “research on other “ordinary” people from the past.”

 The project is a small cross section of history. The project size is ideal. It is not overwhelming for a new researcher to grasp and gives a variety of ideas on how to work with history. I would not add more to the case study because the expansion could lose the purpose of the project. In all aspects of this website it links to the use of primary documents. If the website were to add, for example, how to use secondary sources it would lose the emphasis on primary sources. The project could be replicated for a secondary source use. A website could be created that mirrored the use of secondary sources with a case study. Creating second website would allow for the purpose of both websites having independent thesis statements.

The participation on the website ranges from general interest to being taught at college level courses. This is shown in the seven categories. It gives teaching helps and reaches to specific interests, such as, midwifery. The intended use of the public for this project is specific to the seven categories listed for interests. The website does try to develop several angles in which a person would be able to find interest in the topic. For example, if you are not interested in midwifery, perhaps your interest is genealogy.  The same case study can be used to educate the user on how to piece history together. The set up of the website could be used for a Boise public history project. A case study that could be used for Idaho is the Idaho’s “Trial of the Century,” in which, Clarence Darrow came to Idaho as defense attorney for the trail for the assassination of former governor Steuneburg. The interest of the public would be exact from the do history website, such as, use of primary documents, films about the past, teaching with this website, and Clarence Darrow. Other connection would be trials for assassinations, law, and early Idaho history. Unlike websites that just provide the information about the topic, DoHistory encourages critical thinking about the topic. Doing history of for the Idaho case could have the user demine their verdict to the case given primary documents available via the website.

The website is a creative tool that can be used in a classroom level. With Idaho’s new focus on “technology in the classroom.” Websites like this are helpful to encourage students to find the answer rather than being given the answer, memorize it, and write it down on a test. Adding blogs to the website for the public and student use could add an additional interactive level the website.


This is a picture of a water irrigation pump, powered by a lawn mower engine. It came to mind while reading “Private Property and the Ecological: Commons in the American West.” This particular pump has been a part of the landscape in my parents’ home since I was young. This fixture in my backyard was a social “norm” in my area of town. The whole section of town I grew up in either had a ditch running through the backyard or water hole where the irrigated water would show up once or twice a week. The pump related to the chapters for this week in varying ways. The most obvious was the water laws in southern Idaho. Most people had lawn mower water pumps to move the water from the backyard to water their entire lawns. Every year on the corner of Hawthorne and Quinn streets a sign popped up in the spring announcing the “mandatory” water meeting that decided where and when the water would be available for people to use on their property. The term “mandatory” was used loosely. It meant if you had an opinion of when you should receive water each week and what time of day you should attend. Mainly people who had horse pastures or large vegetable garden would attend the meeting. The rest like my parents would receive a letter advising when to expect water each week and bill for the summer dues. It mirrors Mark Fiege’s analysis on a smaller level; a community of neighbors sharing water in the summer for use on their private property. This service was provided at a small fee compared to city water prices. Just like the private property signs of the west, these water pumps demonstrate the history of water use in Idaho within the city.

The water pump would remain an unimportant fixture in my memory, like Californian bungalows, had I not previously read Peirce Lewis’ chapter on how to read cultural landscapes. If you were to ask me if I “liked” the water pump, I would have answered no. I think it is hideous and reminds me what a chore moving the water was. Ask the questions the Lewis suggestions on page 93, “What is that? Why does it look that way it does? How does it work? Why is it there?” These questions make the pump much more interesting. It is a water pump sitting on an old lawn mower stand because it is using the lawn mower engine. It is still a mystery to me how the thing works, because it breaks every summer. To answer the question why it is there can range from a simple answer of; to water our lawn or, as in depth, to explain private property laws bending to the communal water use.  The vocabulary about its history was explained by Fiege and what little I knew of water meetings.

 A last connection is to the “The Enacted Environment.” (I did not make a connection to Medicine in the (Mini) Mall. I found the article fascinating, but it did not peak my interest like the other articles.) David C. Sloanes explanation of front yard evolution is similar to the evolution of the landscape in the neighborhood I grew up in. The land on the west side of Pocatello was all farm land bought in the 1940’s and turned into a housing development. In is a couple blocks of little rectangle houses on a fourth of an acre lots. They used the same water irrigation that farms used for the houses now. Therefore, irrigation used to water crops now waters lawns for a whole neighborhood.

Cultural Landscape Studies

I began this week’s readings with J.B. Jackson’s piece “To Pity the Plumage and Forget the Dying Bird.” I had several questions about the article, such as, who decides what is urban, rural, or what it considered picturesque? And above all why were roads his answer to every problem? In general I thought the article had some valid points, but could never quite understand how adequate roads were going to fix poverty.

The selected readings from Everyday America helped to clear up a lot of my confusion. The loose definition to cultural landscape and introduction to the Landscape publication gave context to the article. This led me to believe that just jumping to a Landscape magazine would be difficult without knowing who Jackson was and where his ideas where coming from. In chapter 5, Timothy Davis said “Jackson sought to understand the modern motorway on its own terms and relate it to broader social and historical patterns.” This statement answers my question about “To Pity the Plumage and Forget the Dying Bird.” It makes sense that roads would be the fix for every problem if you are trying to prove that new roadways are imperative to our future social success. That being said, I still do not agree with Jackson’s article, however I do agree with the idea of cultural landscape studies.  

I believe that cultural landscape studies are another possible definition for applied historical research. The idea is open to varying studies of archeology, architecture, history, and sociology to name a few. As I see it cultural landscape study is a historical analysis of modern times.  History, as we all know, is complex; there are several different kinds of historians-social, political, cultural, environmental, ect. This mirrors the concept of cultural landscape studies. Cultural landscapes characterize what is happening at the time. Cultural landscapes studies can be an invaluable primary resource. It gives a clear historical analysis that will be helpful to any historian interested, in Jackson’s case, on the history of roadways in America.