Friday, May 30, 2014

Dulce's Reflections from the American Alliance of Museums 2014 Conference

Last week I had the good fortune to join more than 4,500 museum colleagues at the 2014 American Alliance of Museums Conference, convened in Seattle over four beautiful, sunny days.  Recognized as the largest gathering of museum professionals in the world, the AAM Annual Conference brings together representatives from all types of museums (history, art, natural history, zoological, etc.), of all sizes (the National Museum of American History to community historical societies like our very own), and from all corners of the globe (every state and dozens of countries).  Such a diversity of attendees guarantees that panel discussions and even informal chats are inspiring and eye-opening.

As a first-time attendee, I was amazed by the range of topics covered in sessions.  In some time slots more than a dozen concurrent panels were offered, making it difficult to decide just which learning opportunity I should seize.  While every session I sat-in on was informative, there were two or three that particularly resonated with me.  This week I have been reflecting on what I learned at the AAM meeting, and thought I might share some of my "take-home messages" with you all.  In the coming weeks and months I hope you will see how these ideas are being applied here at home at LCHS.

Make your house museum a home museum.  We are fortunate to have access to the beautiful McConnell Mansion, a Victorian house that accurately depicts the upper-middle class aesthetics of the late-19th century and provides a space where the everyday material culture of the McConnell and Adair families can be presented.  The current interpretation of the Mansion, however, limits the sorts of stories we can tell about Latah County's history.  As we invite guests to look around a neatly organized and well appointed house, we may be educating them on the furniture styles of 1886, but we are missing an opportunity to examine how the inhabitants really spent their time.  One presenter at the Conference encouraged house museums to put debris in the wastebaskets or leave a quilt untucked on a child's bed.  House museums only feel sterile because we curate them so differently from our own homes.  I know this is a theme that also resonated with our Museum Curator, and he will certainly be putting the lessons he learned into making the McConnell Mansion a more intriguing home (not house) to visit.

AAM President Dr. Ford Bell welcoming fellowship recipients at the Conference
Create a living room for your community.  My very favorite session was titled "Itinerant Museums" and it highlighted three projects by organizations that actively sought to integrate their exhibit spaces into the surrounding community.  I was especially taken with the presentation by Olson Kundig Architects from Seattle.  In 2011, the company leased an empty retail space in the neighborhood in an effort to bring some energy back to a suppressed community.  The project, known as [storefront] became a three-year long experiment in exhibit design and collaboration.  Every installation was completed in one month and with a budget of $1000.  (To see some of these very cool exhibits, click here.)  While I was enamored with a number of the subjects showcased in [storefront] projects, I was even more inspired by the strong commitment to community that Olson Kundig demonstrated.  Not only were all of the installations achieved through collaboration with local nonprofits, business, or individuals, but the public at large was invited into each reimagined space as a contributor.  [storefront] became a living room for the community, a space where friends or strangers could enter into conversation or simply sit quietly in contemplation.  I absolutely adore that concept, and aspire to bring a similar space to Latah County.

A spectacular view of the Seattle from the Space Needle
 If we don't tell people about how great our museum is, no one else will.  Advocacy for museums is not something I had given a lot of thought to until very recently.  We practice a sort of informal advocacy already here at LCHS -- we invite the County Commissioners to lunch each fall at the Mansion, we communicate with city councils around the county, and we seek to increase our visibility in the community by participating in the county fair each year.  In these ways, we are asking our elected officials and stakeholders to recognize the value of our organization and the services we provide.  Yet, as a number of speakers at the Conference reminded me, advocacy is a year-round endeavor, not a once-a-year obligation.  Presentations covered every level of advocacy from the local to the state to the national.  Both as the Director of LCHS and as a board member of the Idaho Association of Museums, I am looking forward to employing some of the ideas I picked up in Seattle here in Latah County and in Boise.  Museums are an essential part of America's cultural landscape and serve as spaces for public education and dialogue.  As an advocate for all museums, but especially LCHS, I was energized by the ideas shared at the AAM Conference and am ready to roll up my sleeves!

Museum Curator Zach Wnek presented his work with QR codes at the Emerging Innovator's Forum, where I also shared my work utilizing

Want to know more?  I'd love to chat with you about my experiences at AAM!  Feel free to call, email, or stop by the Annex.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wahoo! Take a Ride with LCHS!

Hitch a ride with the LCHS Canyons and Bunchgrass Tour, as we take a look at historic South Latah County. We'll visit old favorites, like Genesee, Kendrick, Juliaetta and Troy; and we'll introduce you to even older ones, like Cordelia, Lone Star, Lenville, and Aspendale. We'll follow the old Nez Perce Trail and stop at the White Springs Ranch Museum. Departure from the Good Sam's parking lot (N. Eisenhower St.) will be at 8:00 a.m., and we'll arrive back in Moscow around 5:00 p.m. The cost is $50 per seat. Transportation, lunch, and our knowledgeable guides are included in the fee.

 To RSVP call (208) 882-1004 or email

And if you're in need of further convincing, check out these photos from last year's expedition. We're not giving away locations in the photos... you'll have to find out for yourself.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Code Name: Digital Bridge

If you're a reader of a certain age, you'll remember when libraries and other research facilities relied heavily on card catalogs and reference librarians to help patrons locate materials.

Similarly, if you have visited the LCHS Centennial Annex in the last thirty years to research any variety of topics, you will also be familiar with the card catalog. Our 36 drawer filing system has been in place since the 1970's. Approximately 32,000 individual cards have been manually indexed, referencing our extensive document collection, maps, oral histories, and library of books. (Our sizable collection of photos possesses its own separate filing system.) The card catalog has been an essential tool for more than three decades, and now it is getting makeover so that it might continue to serve our needs for decades to come.

In September of 2013, the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) awarded LCHS a Community Assistance Grant of $2,500 to jump-start the conversion of our hard copy catalog into a searchable digital record. The official name of our mission is the Digital Bridge Project.

For the past several months, Taylor Howell, a student at the University of Idaho, has been working feverishly to complete the work hours provided by the ISHS grant in time for a May deadline. Taylor moves through each drawer, picking through the cards to locate information from a certain collection. The information on each card is entered into our database, called PastPerfect. There it will be available in an easily searchable format.

He is assisted by LCHS Museum Aide, Hannah Crawford. Together, they have worked through the cards indexing pamphlets, and nearly all of the small collections. During the execution of the grant project, volunteers Lynne McCreight and LeNelle McInturff have been instrumental in resolving discrepancies between entries in the database and the card catalog. We hope to have the Digital Bridge Project completed by December 2014.

We are excited to share with you our first steps on the Digital Bridge Project, and the foundation of a usable online catalog. We hope to make this resource available to our patrons as soon as possible. Please stay tuned for the completion of this exciting project!

The LCHS card catalog.
Each drawer in the cabinet is filled with
hundreds of cards to be entered into our database system.
Each card in the catalog references an item
or archive in the collections.
We extend a very special thank you to the Idaho State Historical Society for the generous grant, which has allowed us to tackle this project.  The Digital Bridge undoubtedly benefits both our staff and visiting researchers because it provides a comprehensive digital catalog that can be keyword searched for easy identification of relevant material.  As we strive to be of continued service to our community and to integrate modern technology with our rich historical collections, we rely on the support of the State Historical Society.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

LCHS Photo Album 60, Carssow Book 1, p. 64

Mother's Day is just two days away, and this year's celebration will mark the 100th anniversary of the holiday's official establishment.  On this day in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Congressional Resolution recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day - a day to thank women for their contributions to society.  The roots of today's Mom's Day, however, can be traced back several decades earlier, to the years leading up to and immediately following the Civil War.  It was in the late 1850s and 1860s that West Virginian and social activist Anna Reeves Jarvis began organizing Mother's Work Days as events to raise awareness of public health issues.  The causes that Jarvis championed, such as food sanitation oversight and access to health education, were especially relevant to war widows and working class women struggling to raise their children in Reconstruction America.

During this same time period, another strong female activist and suffragette, Julia Ward Howe, published a poem entitled "A Mother's Day Proclamation" (1870) which called for similar attention to be paid to the unique and significant challenges of motherhood.  Howe's views were also influenced by her exposure to the carnage of the American Civil War as well as the Franco-Prussian War.  Believing that the startling loss of lives associated with both wars was utterly unnecessary, Howe vocally promoted the need for women to be take part in the political sphere, including conflict resolution.  By Howe's estimation, war could be avoided entirely if women were allowed to negotiate for peace. 

"Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace"  -- Julia Ward Howe, "A Mother's Day Proclamation"

It was ultimately the daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, also named Anna Jarvis, who was able to secure national recognition of an official Mother's Day.  Following the death of the former, Jarvis organized a Mother's Day service in May of 1907 at the Methodist Church where her mother had done the bulk of her community outreach.  This day of recognition was then picked up by additional Methodists churches and congregations of other denominations.  By the time President Wilson announced the creation of Mother's Day, churches in nearly every state were already celebrating the holiday each spring.

While the tone of Mother's Day has changed dramatically over the last century, the basic purpose of the holiday remains intact.  So no matter how you will be celebrating on Sunday, remember to thank the mothers in your life for all that they do.

Of course, our tribute to the moms of Latah County would not be complete without a few finds from our photo and archival collections.  Enjoy!

McGregor & Foster family, May 10, 1925, Mother's Day.  LCHS Photo Foster.LD.01

Mother and son at LCHS Ice Cream Social, date unknown.  LCHS Photo 25-12-043

Mother's Day greeting card.  LCHS SC Greeting Cards, Box 3

Interior of above card.  LCHS SC Greeting Cards, Box 3

Mother's Day greeting card.  LCHS SC Greeting Cards, Box 3

Interior of above card.  LCHS SC Greeting Cards, Box 3
 To learn more about the history of Mother's Day, visit the National Women's History Project at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day in Moscow

May Day, or the first day in May, has long been a cause for celebration around the world.  As the weather begins to turn, people recognize that the beginning of May marks the beginning of the summer season. 

May Day in many parts of the world is celebrated as International Workers Day, a celebration of the laboring class that began in socialist countries as early as 1886.  This version of May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until the February Revolution of 1917.  In Moscow, Russia the celebration involved thousands of people annually and was celebrated in Red Square until 1991.  In 2014 the celebration was allowed to re-convene officially and roughly 100,000 Russians paraded up to the walls of the Kremlin in celebration. 

Moscow, Idaho has a rich tradition of celebrating May Day as a cultural counterpoint to the International Workers’ Day of the other Moscow.   The celebrations in Moscow, Idaho have included processions through East City Park, parades through town, celebrations of international cultures, the election of a May Day Queen and of course dancing around the May Pole.  The celebrations began in the 1910s and have continued on an off throughout the years.  Celebrations of May Day have been common among many age groups from elementary students to University of Idaho pupils.  Below are some pictures of the May Day celebrations in Moscow, Idaho throughout the years.

May Day procession by the Whitworth School in Moscow, Idaho.  The May Day festivities for Whitworth School in 1926 was ironicially held on May 17, 1926.  The procession is going through East City Park.  Courtesy of Latah County Historical Society 01-08-148-2.

Whitworth School May Day procession through East City Park, Moscow, Idaho.  The girl on the platform is the May Day Queen.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society 01-08-148-3.
May Day festival at the University of Idaho, the queen of the May Day festival sits in the center left of the photograph.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society, 17-8-35.

Winding the May Pole at the University of Idaho, no date.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society, 17-8-35-3.

Winding the May Pole at the University of Idaho, no date.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society, 17-8-35-3.
A float in the May Day parade from the University of Idaho, 1953.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society, 01-08-469.
University of Idaho May Day Fete, 1910.  Courtesy of the Latah County Historical Society, 17-08-25.