I’m doing my best to not reiterate every post that has come before me in this week’s reading… Hopefully I’ll succeed.
I actually experienced the issues that Stephanie raised for her eventual post-collegiate endeavors. There I was, fresh with a B.A. in History… my only job offer was within the same agency I had been employed for the past two years. While my friends who dropped out of high school were earning $25/hour in Boston working in some facet of the Union world, I was pulling in a whopping $8/hour as the sole History graduate of that semester who actually worked in the field. The latter was much more gratifying than the prior.
I loved working for the Historical Society. My coworkers and the guests that walked through our doors were (for the most part) amazing. I did not enjoy the bureaucracy that came with working for a State agency. Every June/July during my time at the ISHS, I was waiting patiently for the next fiscal year’s budget to emerge in hopes that my meager wage would be included – hopefully in its entirety.
Another thing that left with with a bad taste towards being a State employee, were the endless loopholes and/or restrictions that limited our abilities as Historians. I all too frequently took liberty on certain projects that have otherwise gone ignored. The old adage, ‘it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission’ rang all too true. I couldn’t stand aside and watch a valuable site, building, or artifact decay due to ‘planning/budget issues’. The exact bureaucracy that most Americans feel is protecting our past, is actually what is preventing it in the first place.
Case in point: The next time you’re in the area of the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, go around to the East side of the property just outside of the wall. Here you’ll find a horse-drawn carriage with wheels buried in the ground and dilapidated wood decaying from the inside-out. The signage is as absent from the artifact as its protection from the elements.
I only found out what this carriage was by word of mouth from coworkers who had been in the agency longer than I’ve been in Idaho. It is one of the few, if only, of its kind in the world that belonged to the Morrison-Knudsen Company. This gravel carriage had been a part of a company that was the first of its kind in Boise that reached greater fame through work on the Alaska Pipeline, Hoover Dam, Kennedy Space Center, and other architectural projects worldwide. In a state where local history usually is scarce and not too significant on a global scale, you’d figure that this would be one of the treasures stowed away in a place of pride in any of our museums (the Old Pen has almost an entire building dedicated to horse-drawn vehicles). Instead, this artifact is left to decay. Moving it has been a long lost possibility, as it is in no condition to be moved or rehabilitated at all. The metal braces have rusted, the wood looks like a collection of splinters barely being held together. A piece of history ignored and neglected because the budget and the concerns of the State did not include it.