Here is one of my favorite blogs: http://usreligion.blogspot.com/. It is edited by two fairly young histories, has numerous contributors, and focuses on American Religious history. It’s quite good at interpreting the religious meanings and significance of current events. One of my favorite threads is called “know your archives” and it provides great information for younger scholars making their first archive visit: http://usreligion.blogspot.com/search/label/archives%20and%20museums
Miles from the hustle and bustle of the capital city of Boise lies the town of Council, nestled in the rich Council Valley alongside the ever flowing Weiser River. The history of Council is a history like many other western towns. With its name derived from the large meetings of Indian “councils” the valley’s roots stretch far back before the arrival of the white man. The town itself began in the late 1860’s with settlers off the last stages of the Oregon Trail and the population grew as the farmers, ranchers, miners and loggers worked together to develop a community out of the mountains.
One hundred and fifty years later Council still clings to its past with tremendous pride and scattered throughout the population of 815 are the same names and faces of that bygone era. There is one man among those who has taken it upon himself to research, record and preserve that history for future generations, Dale Fisk. Dale Fisk is a product of Council history himself with homesteaders from both sides of his family settling in the valley. What started as a personal interest in his own family history evolved into an interest and love of the history of Council and the valley where he still lives. Dale has written three books on the history of the area, authors a byline in the weekly newspaper known as “History Corner”, sits on the Adams County Historic Preservation Commission and in his spare time is the guy in charge of the Council Valley Museum.
Unlike in the bigger cities that have the sources of revenue to pay for a full time museum director, archivist, tour guide and oral historian, Council does not have that luxury. Dale has all of those aforementioned titles plus many more. He supplements his lack of income as a public historian with income derived from his books, newspaper articles, scrimshaw work, playing in his bluegrass band, ranching and a host of other part time jobs where he can utilize his tremendous talents and abilities. For Dale, his love of history shines through in all of his work. In many of his songs that he sings in his country/bluegrass band you can hear reflections of his Idaho past. Songs such as his most famous “Running Back to Idaho” show a tremendous love for his native state. Dale’s love of history also extends into his scrimshaw work. This painstaking artistry on remnants of ivory is an art unto itself and much of his work depicts famous leaders and scenes from the past. Dale has tremendous pride in the three books he has researched and written on the Council Valley area and the railroads that helped build the towns in it.
Most small town public historians are like our Dale Fisk. Most of them don’t get paid that much if any, most didn’t go to college to get a public history degree and most would probably tell you that they don’t do what they do for money, fame or notoriety. The do it, like Dale, because they love history and specifally the history of their beloved home towns. Like a good county doctor, Dale provides us “Councilites” with an invaluable service. He is our “jack of all trades” historian that we wouldn’t trade for anything.
I thought you all might be interested in this video of Cornel West talking with Craig Ferguson about the courage it takes to publicly, collectively face the uglier aspects of our history.