River Street Neighborhood: Changes in the Physical and Cultural Landscape 1863-1970

History 502: Public History, Dr. Leslie Madsen-Brooks

Our group solidified rather quickly because of our mutual curiosity about the River Street neighborhood located in Boise.  None of us knew much more than that the neighborhood had at one point included several African-American families. Since that is no longer the ethnic make-up of the neighborhood, we wondered how it had changed and for what reasons.  Some topics of interest included; community life, segregation, racism, economic opportunities, and push-pull factors of moving in and out of the community. Our group decided to focus on the diversity of River Street, and how the neighborhood changed due to enviornmental factors and business opportunities for residents.  Our objectives were to see how the neighborhood transitioned with each new phase of the city.  For instance we were able to see the effect the railroad and irrigation projects had on the neighborhood and how it changed River Street.  Our learning objectives were met through the use of oral histories, maps, photos, newspaper articles, archives, and working with local museums.

At the start of the process, the timeline for our project included several weeks for information gathering. That turned out to be a great idea since we began to see how much the neighborhood had changed. Our first idea had been to cover the years 1890 to 1970, but we bumped it back to 1863 to include the earliest white settlers who homesteaded in that area along the river. At the Idaho State Historical Society Research Center we found photos and newspaper clippings.  Our group found information online and we gained access to research already completed about the neighborhood by others.  We researched at the library and checked out books to share.  We learned about many different roles the neighborhood played in Boise City history.

After gathering our research, we then narrowed down the topics based on interest and sources available to us.  In order to keep focused, we chose a selection of individuals and families to highlight.  Their lives and experiences reflect the social, economic and political themes which played roles in the changing neighborhood over the years.  The families we focused on also reflect the diversity in the River Street neighborhood.  In addition, their jobs or career choices reflect the opportunities available at the time.

Each of us chose what we wanted to work on in more depth and it seemed like an even distribution of work.  Angie completed research on historical maps and took the lead with the technology component, Clete researched the effect of the railroad and diversion dams and canals, Ellen and Jena researched the people, their homes, and the businesses of the River Street neighborhood.  We met on several occasions and used e-mail to pass information back and forth.  Our group also met at the library and archives to share information and find images for our project.  We were also able to talk after classes to check on our process and discuss what we would be working on next.

Our group completed research on-line, at the library, by contacting local museums and archives, and speaking with Boise State Professors.  We learned about capturing information off microfiche on computer readers at the BSU Library.  In addition, we found the digital Idaho Statesman Historical Archives through the Boise Public Library (1864 to 1922) to be a wealth of information.  Our sources also include oral histories, and autobiographies.

By mid-April we started compiling photos and written text into a PowerPoint presentation. This enabled us to organize our work, and put things in chronological order and intersperse images with text. Our original idea to learn Omeka did not happen. We chose to try a WordPress Blog instead. Our idea to include a Flickr slideshow also had to go because we could not get permission to put the historical images on Flickr. One of our problems was that we were not fully cognizant at the early stages that permission was needed in order to use some of our images.  Also, some of the organizations did not want to give permission for the images to be used on Flickr, however some were already posted and other websites posted images as well.  Clete mentioned that his biggest challenge  was acquiring top quality photos and obtaining the permission to use them.  An additional challenge for the group was the technology component, and just not being as informed as we would have liked as to how to use Omeka, blogs, and/or developing an app.  It is difficult as a group to choose which technology to use when we did not have experience with some of the technology and the implementation process.  However, as a group we overcame challenges and completed our project to the best of our ability.  We have been able to keep to our timeline and have completed a project that has been fun to work on and that we feel will be of interest to others.  We also see that there is the potential to take our project further, beyond Hist 502, and possibly contribute to Boise history through our local art and history programs.



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