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. http://idahostatesman.com/news/local/community/boise/article132037949.html.
“Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story,” Independent Lens. Accessed April 23, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/chavezravine/cr.html.
Eastern Washington University. “Spokane Historical.” http://spokanehistorical.org/, 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. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40479614.
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. http://jstor.org/stable/25162731.
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. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41721142.
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”. http://www.riverstreethistory.com/about-the-river-street-digital-history-project/river-street-history-project-news/. Accessed April 19, 2017.