Spatial history for Boise?

Wow.  I am so excited after exploring The Spatial History Project and the Center for History and New Media.  I do wish, however, that I was more technologically savvy, and in the near future, I may look into taking some of these courses on java, linux, etc.  I have several computer geeks in my life, but it seems my free ride has come to an end.  After exploring the possibilities within the professional field, I have concluded that I should possess these skills myself.  Especially now that Omeka’s open-source coders have made it relatively simple for a girl like me to utilize such amazing technology.  These people are brilliant!

That being said, I was pretty excited to discover that what I envisioned for the fabulous history project is not so audacious that it would be impossible to complete.  After exploring history pin more thoroughly, I discovered that this is precisely the kind of spatial history project that the CHNM are talking about!  It is a little rough around the edges, and I wish it were easier to navigate, in fact, it was not quite what I was hoping for.  But since at the present moment I am not able to use Omeka’s platform, history pin will do the job.  All you have to do is create a user account and upload photos, “pin” them to a location on Google maps, and viola! You have made your historical mark. Each user has a page, a format similar to Picasa, where digital contributions are posted. You have the option to view these photos in their relative locations in Google street-view, which is cool, but it is hard to navigate from one photo to the next. Not quite a coherent tour, as much as it is a point-and-click, hunt-and-peck kind of situation. Here is my trial run,,-108.79692:zoom:15

Beyond it’s navigation issues, I have discovered the potential in history pin to become an extensive digital archive that spans both time and space, and because it is a Google project, I have faith it will achieve this potential (it is in beta, after all).

So how does all of this apply to our fabulous public history project?  Well after browsing the world wide web, I decided to visit some local digital histories.  I discovered a connection to the main body of research, a completed master’s thesis by a graduate student at U of I in 2006, on the old black neighborhood on River and Ash streets. This former student is now a member of Preservation Idaho and contributes to their guided tours and digital histories. Here is their main site, if you feel like browsing (it is much more digitally inclined than the ISHS site, sadly enough) So it turns out that she lives and works here in Boise as a consultant. So we met for coffee.

She got her Master’s in Archaeology, and studied Anthropology at the University of Idaho in 2006, her thesis is titled “Boise’s River Street Neighborhood: Lee, Ash, Lover’s Lane/Pioneer Streets, the south side of the tracks.” I asked her what her interest in the River Street neighborhood was, why she chose it for her topic. Turns out it was assigned to her at random, something she was pretty apprehensive about. But she said she was happy to have something that hadn’t really been “done” before.

Demo’s primary sources for the people who lived in the neighborhood were the oral histories from the Preservation Archives and Research Library PARL (Osa, 1995). She is particularly interested in maps and physical traces of people. She said that she would love to conduct a field school on some of the River Street lots that remain vacant. I’m curious what they might find. After she graduated, Demo worked as an archaeologist for the Idaho Transportation Department, and she worked a few federal contracts. She said that working for federal money is nice, but it is a job-to-job type of experience. So today she is a consultant and volunteer. She volunteers her time organizing photo images that have evidence of canals and ditches in order to reconstruct archaeological organization of past farmers and irrigation. She is happy to compile them for later researchers to use.

And so she seemed quite excited for this history to be visualized, verbalized in a way that people will see.

One thought on “Spatial history for Boise?”

  1. I love Historypin as well! I suggested it as a way for the Boise City Department of Arts and History to use as an engagement piece for Preservation Month, so hopefully Boise will begin to have more of a presence there! Great post.

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