And Here We Have Idaho: Curating the Gem State

The IHC’s 2018 weeklong summer institute, titled And Here We Have Idaho:  Curating the Gem State, held July 15-20 on the campus of Boise State University, was a great success.  Thirty-two teachers attended, representing a variety of disciplines, and teaching multiple grade levels in schools around the state of Idaho.  They received the institute text, Idaho’s Place:  A New History of the Gem State, an anthology of the most current and original writing on Idaho’s History edited by Adam Sowards.  In addition to attending daily lectures and discussions, these teachers were among the first to preview the progress of the renovated Idaho State Museum, opening in the fall of 2018.  Museum staff presented curriculum using the new exhibits, showed some of the videos that will be on display throughout and discussed with the teachers the decision process in curating this major museum renovation.  Teachers attended special evening presentations, visited other local museums and historical sites, and shared ways of teaching Idaho’s history in the classroom.

“Understanding Idaho’s place and putting it in context requires a guidebook,” historian Adam Sowards says in his introduction to Idaho’s Place.  Recognizing Idaho’s unique position in national history and appreciating the role Idaho played in shaping larger narratives entails learning the diverse stories that make up our state. Tribal histories, political conflicts, environmental issues, and personal accounts make up this place so many of us call home. There is no one history of Idaho, but learning how the different histories have overlapped and created our larger story is key to understanding Idaho’s place.

This interdisciplinary institute helped teachers across the state explore the different histories, interpretations, and stories of Idaho. Using Adam Sowards’ book as the guidebook and the newly renovated Idaho State Museum as the starting point, teachers learned how different individuals and groups shaped the state, and how Idaho both reflects larger national history as well as veers away from it in different ways to create its own distinctive story.

Working with prominent Idaho scholars, teachers delved into the political, social, geographic, and cultural history of Idaho. They learned how the new interpretive exhibits in the museum can be used to enhance curriculum development in a diversity of subjects.  Idaho history is complex, and this institute provided teachers with methods to approach the diversity of the history, new stories to teach to their students, and new ways to understand not only the state’s history, but the larger history of the nation.

Scholar presenters included Katherine Aiken, Emeritus Professor of History at University of Idaho, Amy Canfield, Associate Professor of History at Lewis-Clark State College and IHC Executive Committee member, Jill Gill, Chair of the History Department at Boise State University, Keith Petersen, retired Idaho State Historian, and Josiah Pinkham, Nez Perce Tribe.

The keynote – “For the Permanent Good”:  Idaho and the Greening of the Nation – presented by Sara Dant, Professor and Chair of History at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah – was open to the public on Sunday, July 15.  Other public events included an evening of Idaho Music and Latino Corridos, a program featuring Neighbor Narratives, presentations of local refugee stories, and a talk by Susan Swetnam, a member of IHC’s Speakers Bureau and retired ISU Professor of English, on Carnegie Libraries, Women’s Clubs, and Women’s Continuing Influence in Idaho.

Field trips included a Basque Museum visit with a presentation by John Ysursa, IHC Board Member and Basque Studies Consortium Director at Boise State University, a visit to the Idaho State Historical Society Archives led by Judy Austin, and a visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary.  Russ Tremayne, IHC Board Member and History Professor at the College of Southern Idaho, lead a session on the Minidoka Internment Camp, and Heidi Wiesner, Education Specialist, Idaho State Museum, presented curriculum materials available to teachers.

Sample comments from the evaluations:

Thank you for appreciating us teachers and making us feel special!

Very thought provoking and informative. Panelists were very passionate about their field of expertise.

I loved this institute and especially the connection to the new museum. I can’t wait to see the finished product.

Excellent speakers  and overall concept planning. Thank you for a varied and special event!

This was a wonderful institute! It was a great way to spend my summer, so that I can go back to the classroom in the fall, and be the best Idaho History teacher I can be!

The Institute every year has been a highlight of my summer. I love learning, and the people in charge, the scholars, and my classmates inspire me.

This was a great experience and I feel that I have tons of resources to use in the future.

These are always life changing. Thank you!

Absolutely amazing!