Sunday, December 30, 2012

So What is Happening with Spokane Historical?

Come and explore Spokane Historical!
Spokane Historical is a smartphone app and website for local history, and is a project of the Public History program at Eastern Washington University. It has been awhile since I blogged about this project, and there is a lot to report.

There are now over 150 high quality points of interpretation, or "tour stops" on Spokane Historical. All were created by EWU students in public history courses. I have given students a pretty free hand in choosing their topics, and I am pleased with the diversity of topics. In Spokane we have everything from a tour of the historic parks and Fort George Wright to stops along the Art Walk and many historic buildings and events.

Spokane Historical also includes substantial content in Cheney, including downtown landmarks such as the Odd Fellows Building and Bill's Tavern. We have interpreted over a dozen sites on the EWU campus, including Showalter Hall, the JFK Library, and Jore School--the one-room schoolhouse on the Cheney campus.

There is so much terrific content on Spokane Historical that for the next few weeks I will feature a series of posts about the project. But you don't have to wait for me--go ahead and take a look around.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where Would You Film a Spokane Tilt-Shift Video?

You know those tilt-shift, time-lapse videos your friends are always sharing on Facebook? Neat, aren't they? I particularly like this one, filmed in Chicago:



What I love about it, beyond the technique, is how many iconic Chicago landmarks make an appearance. We see Navy Pier, Lakeshore Drive, the L, amd lots of Chicago architecture.

If you were going to make a film like this in Spokane, where would you film it? What places have both iconic imagery that says Spokane, but also some sort of interesting activity and movement that lends itself to this sort of film technique? Off the top of my head, a tilt-shift, time-lapse video of Spokane could include:

  • people walking on the footbridge over the upper falls
  • the gondolas over the lower falls
  • the parking lot at SFCC filling up and emptying out
  • kids sledding at Manito Park
  • cars skidding on the snow on the South Hill
  • trains passing through town, and over Latah Creek
  • kayakers at People's Park
  • folks crossing the bridge at Bowl and Pitcher
  • downtown pedestrian and automobile traffic
  • the rides at Riverfront Park
  • sunset over Spokane from Palisades Park
  • cars going around the curves on the Mount Spokane Road
  • cars passing through an espresso stand
What else? And who is to make this film? It sounds like a good class project for some film class at one of the colleges. Get busy, someone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Scraps of History

I was searching for something else entirely and came across this little item from the December 3, 1940 issue of the Spokesman Review:


What a proud and handsome young man! I had to wonder though--what fate befell this young man who entered the Army Air Corps a year before Pearl Harbor?

The Army Air Corps was expanded by Congress in 1939, and Croteau, a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, was one of hundreds of new pilots being recruited. Kelly Field was a training base in San Antonio. As Croteau went to Kelly Field, Europe was awash in war, the Japanese Army had conquered much of China and southeast Asia, and the United States was preparing to enter the global conflict. So what happened to our smiling lad from Wallace?

Croteau was assigned to the 83rd Squadron, 12th Bomb Group (M), of the 9th United States Army Air Force at Ismailia, Egypt. He piloted a B-25 in support of allied troops at the Battle of El Alamein. I know this because of this web page that describes the wartime service of Roland Rakow, the lower turret gunner on Croteau's bomber. Let's let Rakow tell the story:

On September 1, 1942, as our B-25 was returning from its second completed mission—dropping its bomb load on tanks, trucks and troops on the front line at El Alamein—it was struck by a German anti-aircraft 88 mm shell on the left side of the aircraft, adjacent to the top turret gun position. The shell made a gaping hole, which caused the aircraft to break open and go into a 30-or 40-degree dive. 

The bombardier, navigator, and the top turret gunner were unable to leave the aircraft. The pilot, co-pilot, and I (the radio operator) parachuted to the ground. We sustained wounds and injuries. “The aircraft crashed in the desert. Capt. Croteau—who was slightly injured—and Lt. Biers located the crash site and found the bodies of Lt. McPartlin and Lt. Archer still in the aircraft. Not wanting to leave their bodies, they buried them at the site. Sergeant Andersen’s body was not found. 

I had parachuted to a different location. Within a short period of time, Capt. Croteau and Lt. Biers were discovered and taken prisoner by the German Army. Subsequently, they were transported to a German POW camp and they remained there for the duration of the war.

Rakow was sent to a prison camp in Italy from which he eventually escaped, making his way back to Allied lines and was returned to the States for medical treatment. At the end of his narrative he notes: "I have never been in contact with Capt. Croteau or Lt. Biers, the remaining survivors of my B-25 crew. However, I did hear from other members of our 83rd Squadron that Capt. Croteau had passed away."

B-25s of the 12th Bomb Group over North Africa, 1944.
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Croteau had not passed away, however. He survived the war and returned to the Northwest. Croteau married, had a child, worked for Uniroyal and Delta, and lived until 2006, when he died at the ripe old age of age of 87 in Beaverton, Oregon. Here is his grave. His obituary notes that he was a prisoner of war for 32 months. Croeau lived for over 64 years after he was shot down, wounded, and taken prisoner in 1941, and more than 60 years after his crew mate Rakov reported his death.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Historic Photos from Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area

[Update 12/10/12: I added a few lines beneath some of the photos to answer a few questions.]

Friday was a good day, I got to watch one of my public history graduate students, Clayton Hanson, defend his MA project and complete the requirements for graduation.

Clayton has combined his studies at Eastern Washington University with a series of seasonal positions with the National Park Service, where he has specialized in helping parks use new media to better serve the public. His MA project was a portfolio of some of the digital work he has done, including interpretive guides for the NPS on the use of social media, some clever historic site interpretations at Spokane Historical, quire a few Facebook posts for Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, and quite a bit else. One of his digital media projects was to organize the Lake Roosevelt's photo collection put the highlights online, which he did at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area's photosets on Flickr.

There are some wonderful historic images there, and I wanted to share a few here:

'Dr. A. D. Snyder and daughter Hope' from the Indian Tuberculosis Hospitalset.
Fort Spokane was established in 1880. By 1898 it had become a boarding school for American Indians, and in 1909 it was converted to a tuberculosis sanitarium for American Indians.

Footbridge over Spokane River narrows, 1910


Augustine (?) and Augusta (?) Williams at mourning ceremony at Kettle Falls, June 1938
The "mourning ceremony" was held by Indians as the slack water of the Grand Coulee Dam rose and covered Kettle Falls, where Indians had fished for salmon for thousands of years. To thousands of Indians, construction of the dam was then end to a traditional way of life.

Lafferty Transportation Company docks at Kettle Falls, 1955
Fort Spokane Baseball Club, 1894

There are so many additional wonderful images, go ahead and explore a while. And congratulations Clayton!



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spokane Valley, 1857

So I was fooling around at the National Archives website the other day and found this:


Isn't it lovely? This watercolor was painted around 1857 near Plante's Ferry across the Spokane River, and is surely the earliest depiction of Spokane Valley. If you click through to the original record you can zoom in and explore this very detailed painting. Can you find the two men in a canoe? The wagon road?

The image reveals a lot about the environment at that time. I tweeted the image and the helpful @doigSt identified the mountains: "Signal Point, Blossom Mountain & the 2 Mica Peaks." He also asked why there are so few trees in the image. The almost complete lack of trees in the valley would have been due to native burning. Plateau Indians typically set periodic fires to many areas to shape the land to their needs. Regular burning created a purposeful mosaic of prairies and forest that created environments rich in game animals and popular plant foodstuffs.

I believe the painter must have been part way up the same bluff where Spokane inventor Royal Riblet built his mansion. Riblet is a great local character, the inventor of the chair lift and many other, often less practical, inventions. Perhaps I will head out with my camera and see if I can rephotograph the same area from the same location. In the meantime, here is the approximate same view in Google Earth:




Saturday, November 24, 2012

Will Old Bessie Survive Nuclear War?

Courtesy of the Internet Archive, this is a reel of civil defense commercials created for rural farmers in 1965. They are delightfully crude and fairly begging for a mashup. I love the mono-filament fishing line!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Auntie's to be Flooded


On Saturday, November 17 at 2 p.m. geologist Bruce Bjornstad will be giving a talk, Powerpoint and Q&A session at Auntie's Books. The topic is his latest book, On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: Northern Reaches. This guidebook details sites near Cheney, Spokane, north Idaho, and the channeled scab lands that are accessible to visit and study the effects of the calamitous flooding of prehistoric Lake Missoula.

The floods are of course responsible for much of the unique topography of the inland Northwest, as well as our bath tub ring of mammoth skeletons. You can learn more at the Ice Age Floods Institute.

This is a fascinating topic, as well as an opportunity to support our local independent bookstore! See you there.

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Trust Conference, Day 2: Native Canoes and World's Fairs

Big day at the National Trust. The only way I will complete this post is if I summarize everything ever so concisely...

Future Bing Crosby Theater, host to Conversation Starters
A special feature of this conference are the morning "Conversation Starter" sessions. These begin at 8:30, have no competing events (other than field sessions) and have a reading list provided beforehand. I missed yesterday's conversation starter, Good vs. Good on Public Lands, so made sure to catch Telling Richer Stories of Place today. Participants included Keith Magee from The National Public Housing Museum, Edgar Garcia of the City of Los Angeles; Michelle Magalong from My HiFi in Los Angeles, and Aissia Richardson of  Uptown Entertainment in Philadelphia.

It turned out that "Richer Stories of Place" meant including more non-white actors in our stories of place--which is a worthy goal. We heard a lot of interesting stories about oral histories, working with some very dilapidated properties, and trying to bridge the chasms between developers, community groups and preservationists. My favorite line from the session was when Richardson recounted how she would urge community organizations to participate in planning by telling them: "If you are not at the table, you are on the menu."

For my mid-morning session I checked out Indigenous Cultural Landscapes: New Ideas on Place. The presenters were from a variety of organizations around the Chesapeake Bay, working together on the Piscataway Cultural Landscape Initiative, which seeks to become a national model for working with native cultural landscapes. It was a fascinating and wide-ranging session. I especially appreciated Deanna Beacham's obwervations on the Park Service's 1963 Leopold Report, which advocated caring restoring public lands "to primeval wilderness." Beacham noted that "wilderness" is not even a word in native vocabularies, and called the Leopold report "profoundly ignorant" on native shaping of the North American landscape.
1968 dedication of Piscataway Park

The other great thing about the Cultural Landscapes sessions was this--they left time for and solicited audience interaction. About half the session was set aside as a conversation, and session facilitator guided what was absolutely the best audience-panel interaction I have ever seen at a conference. Well done.

At noon I checked into one of the 25 minute power sessions at the exhibit hall, this one a demonstration of the National Public Housing Museum's 3D laser scanning project. The YouTube we watched is here. The short version is that the museum, which hope to renovate an abandoned Chicago public housing project into a museum, partnered with the Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA) at the University of Birmingham to create an extraordinarily detailed 3D scan of the building, used in planning and fundraising and to give remote visitors a 3D immersive experience.

My first afternoon session was Washington's Maritime Heritage, which described the work that has gone into a proposed Washington State Maritime Heritage Area. You can read the report here. I cannot do justice to this rich session in a few sessions. The high point was seeing the blending of historic sources and GPS and other technologies that went into identifying and mapping the 2300 miles of shoreline and 500 historic properties in the initial survey.

I have been thinking about a northwest National Heritage area for some time, so I took a lot of notes. Watch this space for a future plan.

Dare the Bubbleator!
Finally, I attended Landmarks of the Future: The Heritage, Legacy and Promise of World’s Fairs. This session featured Knute Berger, author of the terrific Mossback blog as well as Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice, and Bill Youngs, author of The Fair and the Falls: Spokane's Expo '74 : Transforming an American Environment. The two compared the Seattle's and Spokane's fairs in 1962 and 1974. Seattle's theme was the future and the long-term goal was to leave Seattle with the seeds of its high-tech future, such as the monorail that would eventually link the entire region, the Space Needle, and the Bubbleator. a dozen years later Spokane focused its fair on the environment, with the long-term goal of transforming a tangle of rail yards and parking lots into Riverfront Park.

Honestly I was blown away by the interest and quality of the sessions today. This is my first National Trust conference, but already I am making plans for next year, in Indianapolis.

National Trust Conference, Day 1: Historic Trails, Atomic Bombs, and Some Questionable History

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is in the house! This is one of the largest conferences that Spokane has hosted, certainly the largest history-themed conference, and it seems to be going really well. Today I gave a presentation, learned about plotting historic trails, explored three sites of a proposed new national park, heard some dubious historical interpretation, and met a lot of interesting people.

I only attended half the day today, and my first activity was presenting at my own session, Using Mobile Interpretation to Strengthen Preservation Communities. Here are the slides--though I am not sure how much sense they make without my presentation:



In the afternoon I attended two sessions. Happy Trails! Going to Great Lengths to Preserve National Historic Trails was fascinating but should have been subtitled Going to Great Lengths to FIND National Historic Trails. The three panelists described their work on three historic trails--Dave Crowley of the BLM on the Oregon Trail, Angie Krall of the Forest Service on the Old Spanish Trail, and Julie McGilvray of the NPS on the Butterfield Stage Route. What fascinated me was the incredibly painstaking work each person did with old maps, surveyors notes, and painstaking archaeology to pinpoint the routes and campsites of these long-vanished routes. Their identifications hinged on such items as a copper shell casing, a broken Spanish bridle bit, and a shard from a whiskey bottle. Locating these routes is fine-grained detective work.

My second afternoon session was  Interpreting the History of the Atomic Age. This session featured presenters for the three sites of the proposed Manhattan Project National Monument. Ethiel Garlington explained some of the preservation issues at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Colleen French ("I'm just a girl who fell in love with a reactor") explained the special problems at Hanford where historic preservation takes a necessary back seat to cleaning up hazardous materials, and Heather McClenahan told us about Los Alamos.

I have to think that this session was planned, earlier in the year when proposals were submitted, as an announcement of a new national park. As late as this summer it seemed like the proposed park was on the fast track. But in September the bill failed, at least for now, partly on the objections of Congressman Dennis Kucinich. "At a time when we should be organizing the world toward abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us, we are instead indulging in hideous admiration at our cleverness as a species. The Bomb is about graveyards, not National Parks," said Kucinich. The Park Service will likely try again, but for now there is no Manhattan Project Park

One of the reasons for the failure was unintentionally made clear during the session, where two of the five presenters engaged in weird digressions from their subjects to deliver endorsements of the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japanese cities. Session chair Sean Smith of the National Parks Conservation Association stated that there was absolutely no evidence that the Japanese were considering surrender and gave very high estimates of casualties if the Americans had invaded. McClenahan added at the end of her presentation (which until that moment had been about preserving historic buildings in New Mexico) that some people disputed the high casualty figures if an invasion had been necessary  but how do those people explain then why the U.S. manufactured so many Purple Hearts for the invasion of Japan that the military did not use up the the supply until recently?

These asides were both completely irrelevant to the presentation and bad history. Smiths claims were naive. Japan sent out what many historians believe was a peace feeler to the United States before the dropping of the first bomb. There is plenty of evidence that some of the high casualty figures for an invasion of the Japanese mainland were manufactured after that war as post-facto justifications for the use of atomic bombs on civilian populations. And as for the purple hearts surplus--the United States also exited the war with a surplus of toilet paper, so much that some government agencies used WW2 army toilet paper into the 1960s. Gentle reader, I will allow you a moment to make your own joke here. You do not have to be opposed to the decision to drop the bomb (I personally feel it was the right call) to object to these presentations.

Besides being poor history, the pro-bomb arguments were wildly out of place and do real damage to the laudable cause of creating this national park. It was very like hearing a presentation on why we need a new Civil War park interrupted by an explanation of how the South was right about states rights, or "Manifest Destiny: Not So Bad" as the tagline for a new westward expansion monument.

In the question session an audience member mentioned that the mayor of Nagasaki had sent a letter to President Obama, opposing the creation of the park. I wonder why?

I should not make too much of this--both presenters spent only a few minutes defending the bomb in otherwise excellent presentations. I look forward to tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Northwest History in Unusual Places

There is nothing I like better than finding a new archive of local history--particularly when it isn't local.

Last week I tweeted a question about European museums with collections of North American Indian cultural objects. (For a possible grant proposal, I am looking for items from Plateau tribes that were collected and taken to Europe--but that is another blog post.)  Matt Shaw suggested I look at Europeana.eu, a portal to multiple European archives.

I have not found many native objects yet, but a search for Spokane turns up over 60 records!

Ole S. Weiberg, 1910
This should not surprise us. Spokane was founded as a frontier town in an era of high European immigration to the United States. The early census records for Spokane show scores of Germans, Finns, Danes, Balkans, and other Europeans. Of course they sent letters and photographs and postcards home, and of course some of these ended up in archives. Europeana.eu makes it possible to find some of these objects. Here are a few of my favorites:

This photograph is not that evocative, but the description is full of local information. From the Norwegian via Google Translate:

Description: From the USA. Letter to Severinbrauta: "Spokane, 24.07.1910. A passion greeting from Spokane, is fresh, everything well. Has amenable their letters, is very easily discovered, to write letters when it gets a bit colder, osb Warmly greeted everyone. My Address is: 1007 West 5th Av .. From Ole S. Weiberg.

The translation could be better, but this is still a rare glimpse into the life of early Spokane immigrant. A quick Google reveals that Weiberg died in 1944 and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Terrace.



This postcard is captioned "North Channel, Upper Falls, Spokane, Washington." I have not seen this image before.


The provenance and Spokane connection to this one is a little tenuous. The translated caption idetifies this woman as Marie Lyche Halseth, "mistress of Knut Halseth (f.1860)... who was called "Gold Knut" when he did so well during the gold rush there, moreover he was a trapper."


This guy was pretty well-known in his day. Google Translate: "1898 was Olaus Jeldness winner in the "Canadian Chapionship" to jump and "The Ski Race." Note the skis that are made of oak and ganasjane ... He died in Spokane, WA... Olaus was the largest ski pioneer in Canada and North America. Much discussed in the book "The Ski Race" by Sam Wormington." Here is his biography at the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame.

This makes a point that I have made before: The digital turn is having a far greater effect on the writing of local history than of any other field of historical endeavor. Digitizing records may not teach us anything new about George Washington and his Farewell Address. The relevant documents are well-known and well-analyzed and have been so for generations. But for a relatively under-researched place like Spokane, with historic records scattered across the land, this is a revolution in our understanding.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Now THIS Guy has a Secret!

I am not sure that I buy this, but here you go:



Here is a newspaper article from the time period (of the TV show, not the assassination) "I Saw Lincoln Shot." Seymour died in 1956.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

National Preservation Conference Almost Here!



Beyond Boundaries: The National Preservation Conference is coming to Spokane in just a few weeks. The event takes place October 31st to November 3rd. This is a big conference--as the program will attest--and includes everything from education sessions and workshops to field trips and a powwow.

Of course, the must-see session of the conference is the following Power Session which will take place Thursday, November 1 from 12:30-1:00pm at the Spokane Convention Center Ballroom Exhibit Hall:

Using Mobile Interpretation to Strengthen Preservation Communities This session will highlight the way two communities, Cleveland and Spokane, are using smart phone mobile tours to promote historic preservation. Includes a demonstration of the Spokane Historical app. Presenter: Larry Cebula,Washington State Archives and Eastern Washington University.

I want to point out one conference innovation that could be copied elsewhere. Priya Chhaya, the Online Content Coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has created pre-confernce reading lists for some of the sessions, to give newcomers to a particular topic a grounding in the literature and issues. Click through and check these out:
 I particularly like the reading list for historic preservation and public lands, which begins with a Wallace Stegner letter and includes case law and some articles on specific conflicts. And the Stories of Place reading list also includes a comments section where the public can leave questions for the panelists. More conferences should do this.

If you cannot come to Spokane--well, why can't you?! I guess you will have to follow the conference at home. The Twitter hashtag is #PRESCONF and the the National Trusts tweets as PresNation. There is also the excellent National Trust blog.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WHA Conference Wrap Up

I did not get a lot better in Denver, so the last day-and-a-half of the conference featured a few sessions, some sniffly sightseeing, and Pay-Per-View and room service. Cowboys and Aliens is better than you think--or maybe that was the NyQuil?

We got your New Western History right here.

A few highlights, as best as I can recall them:
  • The session Public History, Western Spaces was quite good. Melissa Bingmann did a terrific paper on Pipe Spring National Monument and the Beehive House, both of which have often featured interpretations that scrubbed any mentions of polygamy from the histories of the sites. Zac Robinson demonstrated that that Botanist-Explorer David Douglas almost certainly fabricated his storied 1827 ascent of mounts Brown and Hooker in the Canadian Rockies.
  • The Frontier Goes Global: the Wild West in Europe was a terrific session that compared the legacy of William F. Cody in Italy, Germany and England. There were all sorts of wonderful nuggets, such as that the Italians focused on the clothing of the performance, while the Germans were fascinated by the Indians.
  • I spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall. At history conferences the exhibit hall is devoted largely to book publishers, and my God there are a lot of good books coming out. I bought Laurie Arnold's Bartering With the Bones of Their Dead
  • I made a visit to the Molly Brown house--a museum that used to be the home of the "unsinkable" Titanic survivor and noted philanthropist. Public History has ruined me for such simple pleasures as visiting a house museum, I am forever grading the presentation. My tour guide was very good--quite animated and a natural storyteller. The tour however focused on biography and wallpaper, and did not connect Brown's fascinating life to the big historic themes of her times.
  • Finally, I squeezed in a quick visit to the wonderful Denver Art Museum. I could spend a week there. 
Now I am back in Spokane, suddenly well and playing the usual post-conference catch up of emails and teaching and etc. Regular blogging will resume shortly.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

WHA Conference Day 2, Generic NyQuil Edition

A quick report on a few cool things I saw yesterday. I am quickly coming down with a bad cold so everything is reported through a bit of a generic NyQuil haze::

I went to one traditional academic session, Epidemic!: Disease Across time in Western spaces. A note for readers who may be innocent of the wonders of the academic history conference. By "traditional" I mean a session where historians read their papers out loud to you while you sit and listen. Really, they read their papers out loud. I am not sure why--maybe they think the audience cannot read? Anyway, then a commentator, typically a big shot in the particular subfield, provides a reaction. Then there are questions from the audience--unless the presenters went over their time, which they nearly always do, in which case there are no questions.

Given the format, Disease Across Time was an excellent panel:
  • Adam Hodge, a grad student at the University of Nebraska, explained how horses served as a vector for the spread of smallpox in the 1790s. His work helps to fill in some of the gaps in Elizabeth Fenn's Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82, a great book but with some weak spots involving smallpox in the far west.
  •  Mark Allan Goldberg gave an a good is somewhat jargony paper, "Pushing Peyote: Healing, Nation, and the 1833 Cholera Epidemic in Mexican Texas" on efforts to combat the spread of cholera in northern Mexico. Desperate official authorities sometimes adopted an opium cure from native healers.
  • The best paper was Liza Piper's "The Great Flu of 1928: Creating a Geography of Isolation in Canada’s Northwest." She surveyed a series of Spanish flu and other epidemics in the Canadian north in the first half of the twentieth century. The 1918 Spanish flu in particular was a virgin soil epidemic that left a wealth of compelling primary sources, and Piper did a wonderful job of incorporating these and allowing the victims and survivors of the epidemics to narrate the story.
At noon I went to the lunch for the editorial board of Montana, the Magazine of Western History. The magazine treads that middle ground between scholarly and popular, a tough act to pull off but one that Montana does very well. Montana used to have a relationship with the Western Historical Association whereby WHA members received Montana and the magazine got some money. That arrangement has ended and Montana is looking for new readers, new sources of revenue, and how to make the transition to the digital age. I don't know that the editors figured everything out at lunch, but we made some progress.

Reading room of the DPL
After lunch some of us grabbed a cab to the Digital frontiers: A Digital History Workshop session at the fabulous Denver Public Library. I am on the WHA Digital Task Force, a committee that is attempting to promote digital scholarship and sessions within the organization, and we have sponsored a Digital Frontiers session at each of the last three WHA meetings. This year J. Wendell Cox of the DPL organized a session showing off some of their digital projects.

Though I missed the first presenter, I enjoyed the tour through the DPLs vast photographic archives of the American West, only a small fraction of which are online. Particularly interesting was the presentation on the DPL's Creating Communities, an effort to leverage technology to expand DPL's collection of more recent photographs of Denver and "to embrace participatory culture to create social archives which include anyone with an interest in helping to collect and preserve history." The tech end of the project is powered by a Drupal module that connects to the DPL's ContentDM database of digital collection. This enables the public to add their own photographs to the DPL site, to organize online communities to represent neighborhoods or interests, and to add metadata to existing photographs ("That is my uncle John Garcia," or whatever). It was a really innovative project, but what struck me most is how much time and institutional resources it took on the part of the DPL to enable community involvement.

Then, Dear Reader, I went back to the hotel and attempted to treat this cold with generic NyQuil, room service, and MSNBC. I am off to a slow start this morning, we will see how Day 3 goes. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

At the Western History Association

Today is the first day of the annual Conference of the Western History Association. This year we are in Denver. This is one of two conference I try to attend every year (the other is the National Council on Public History).

The WHA is an organization in transition. When I first attended it was a mix of academics and history buffs. Professors would present their research papers to an audience that was a mix of fellow professors and guys in cowboy hats or women in sun bonnets. The two worlds came together with the Green River Knife Ceremony--an awful, cringe-inducing production at the lunch banquet where some guy dressed up as a mountain man would talk in fake "Old Westy" dialect and even recite a fake historical poem while he handed over a ceremonial mountain man's knife ("thus h'yar knife") to the new WHA President. It was enough to hide under the table.

The Green River Knife is gone now, and the buffs have mostly left as well. So have many of the National Park Service folks who used to be here. And I think there used to be more American Indians. There are more public historians now than there used to be, and that is good, and more school teachers. But for all of the great digital history work being done in the American West, there is almost nothing of the digital turn here. The WHA headquarters are moving from University of Missouri-Saint Louis to Nome Fairbanks, Alaska. Transition.

I am on the Digital Task Force of the WHA and the Editorial Board of Montana Magazine, so I will have a few meetings but should be able to attend quite a few sessions. For the next few days I will try to find time to blog a bit of what I learn here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Native Perspective on Mount Rushmore

If you were to stand in front of one public monument in your community and talk back to history, which monument would it be? What would you say?




I really like this short video of a Lakota man in front of Mount Rushmore, listing the anti-Indian sins of each of the presidents memorialized there. The narrator, Leon Matthews, has a great conversational style, along with passion for the subject. I also like the loose production values--the sound of the wind on the microphone and the children talking in the background. One could argue with some of the history (Lincoln also pardoned 265 Dakota who were sentenced to death after the Dakota Uprising). Still, this heartfelt and largely correct rejoinder makes us question the appropriateness of a monument to four agents of American empire in the heart of the Sacred (to the Lakota) Black Hills. Mathews has a YouTube channel of similar videos, along with a blog and occasional columns in the Lakota Country Times.

This is guerrilla public history, enabled by the digital age. An inexpensive video camera, a YouTube account, and a compelling message is all you need.

Which brings me back around to the question at the start of this post. What public monument would you reinterpret--either in your community or anywhere else?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall Harvest Festival at the MAC on Saturday


The Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture is throwing a big shindig on Saturday, September 22nd. The Fall Harvest Festival features a variety of events, including fur trade reenactors, Scottish highland games, and a beer and wine garden. The highlight of the day is the opening of the new exhibit, David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work. The Spokesman ran an article about this exhibit, the first of its kind about an important figure in the history and natural history of the Pacific Northwest. At 4 p.m. exhibit curator and author Jack Nisbet will give a guided tour of the exhibit.

After a bumpy couple of years, the MAC seems to be finding its feet and redefining itself in ways that should improve its standing and relevance to the community. There is a lot going on at the MAC these days, from wine tastings to Archaeological Institute of American Lectures to the ever-popular BeGin gatherings.  If you have not been a MAC supporter, this might is a good time to become a member.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nature Girl and the Slaver

I was, I swear, doing academic research about Indians and British survey parties in the 1850s--when I Googled up this arresting image:

Courtesy Mondo 70

Of course, I dropped my academic research like a hot potato to find out more about Nature Girl and the Slaver the Y Drive In, and "untouched nymphet beauty." 

I found the image at a delightful blog: Mondo 70: A Wild World of Cinema. Apparently the advertisement is from 1962, and the film itself is "a 1957 West German jungle picture, a sequel to Liane, Jungle Goddess." Of course. A search for the film title turned up an image of the original color poster:


Avaxhome, the site where I found this poster describes Nature Girl and the Slaver thus:


Nature Girl and the Slaver (1957)
=
This fun and exciting West German-produced sequel to "Liane, Jungle Goddess" has the sexy vine-swinging babe encountering her rich relatives after they come looking for her. But when she is kidnapped by ruthless slave traders, their reunion is short-lived. Can Liane escape? Will she do an erotic dance first? Find out in this thrilling adventure! Marion Michael, Adrian Hoven, Friedrich Joloff star.

Also Known As (AKA):
Jungle Girl and the Slaver - USA
Liana la schiava bianca - Italy
Liane, die wei├če Sklavin - Germany

You can even download the film.

What about the Y Drive In? I didn't find out much, except the the drive in theater was on the north side of Spokane near "the Y"--the place where US Routes 2 and 395 diverge. The theater closed in the early 80s and was torn down in 1983. A search through the Spokesman Review shows that the Y Drive In specialized in films like Nature Girl and the Slaver, Games Schoolgirls Play, and Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki.

Who says Spokane never had any culture?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lewis and Clark Events in Spokane this Weekend!


I just received this press release in the mail. Unfortunately I will be out of town this weekend, but thought some local Northwest History readers might find it of interest:

Press Announcement

Washington Chapter
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc.

Spokane, Washington meeting and field trip
September 15-16, 2012

Saturday, September 15 
10:00 AM Meeting near 1916 Sacajawea statue in lobby of Showalter Hall, on Eastern Washington University campus, Cheney, Washington.
Enter at 5th and College Street, parking at 5th and F St. 
Sacajawea statue at EWU
11:00  – Chapter Board meeting

2:00 PM meet at Greenwood Memorial Terrace – 211 North Government Way
see grave of Ben Bierney, grandson of Sgt Patrick Gass, and floral presentation.   

3:00 PM  History of Lewis and Clark flag by John Caskey of Fairmont Memorial Association 5200 West Wellesley Ave

Optional stops on your own:
  • Abraham Lincoln statue by Victor Alonzo Lewis (Captain Lewis descendant) West Main Ave and North Monroe St downtown Spokane
  •  Pennington Hotel, (now the east entrance parking area at the Davenport Hotel, 10 South Post Street at Sprague Ave,) where Ben Bierney died. 
  • Lewis and Clark High School Auditorium. 521 West 4th Ave Note large murals of Captains Clark and Lewis on either side of the stage, also by Victor Alonzo Lewis    


7:30 PM Historian and Chapter President Barb Kubik presents "Sah-gah-gar we a: Stories, Statues and Symbols" at Spokane Falls Community College 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. Building 18, Room 129    

Sunday, September 16
10:00 meet at Spokane House Interpretative Center – Highway 291 - 9711 West Charles, Nine Mile Falls, Washington 99026 (State Parks Discovery Pass required)
  
Please contact me if you have any questions

Thank You

Robert Heacock
Secretary/Membership Chair
Washington State Chapter
Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Inc.
509-924-4020
509-954-6913
heacock1@mindspring.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Getting Progressive with Teddy in Spokane

TR dispatching an unpatriotic bigfoot on one of Roosevelt's trips
to the Pacific Northwest.  By the fantastic artist Sharpwriter.
My town of Spokane Washington is often thought of as a conservative place, but we have a long history of progressive thought and action. So it is no wonder that Theodore Roosevelt was quite popular in this town. The Spokesman-Review reminded us of that just the other day when Jim Kershner’s this day in history column featured a hundred-year-old story about a TR visit to Spokane:

The Spokane Daily Chronicle said he was “cheered repeatedly by immense throngs” topping 20,000. 

His speech was filled with “Teddyisms,” and a “mere stenographic report fails to do justice to the situation.” His speech was peppered with “hot shots” like this: “I would rather see the cost of production enhanced than see it kept low by underpaid labor.” ...

The former president praised the people of Spokane – which had always been a Teddy stronghold – and called them “the real progressives.” The Spokesman-Review abandoned any pretense of impartiality in its main story, referring to him as “the human dynamo” and “the man who is leading the fight for honest politics.”

Last spring one of my students, Lee Nilsson, created an excellent tour stop for Spokane Historical titled “Theodore Roosevelt on the Parade Grounds.” Lee is a real ham and even did his own dramatic reading of the speech that TR gave in Spokane

I was reminded of Lee's work and Kershner's column today when I was exploring the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project website. This wonderful project at UC-Santa Barbara is digitizing thousands of wax cylinders and putting them online. I was looking for specifically Pacific Northwest content and did not have much luck--except for a handful of Roosevelt speeches:

1
Theodore Roosevelt.
The farmer and the business man
3708: Edison Blue Amberol
1148: Edison Amberol
[1919]
2
Theodore Roosevelt.
The right of the people to rule
3707: Edison Blue Amberol
1149: Edison Amberol
[1919]
3
William H. Taft.
Roosevelt policies
10002: Edison Gold Moulded Record
[1908]
4
Theodore Roosevelt.
Social and industrial justice
3709: Edison Blue Amberol
1147: Edison Amberol
[1919]

Take a listen to Lee's TR, and then to the man himself. I think Lee did pretty well!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spokane Historical, International Sensation

So here is our latest report on new downloads of Spokane Historical, the smartphone app for local history:


I am excited and perhaps a bit puzzled to find users in China, Israel and Sri Lanka! Welcome.

If you haven't already downloaded Spokane Historical do so now for your iPhone or Android. No smart phone? Explore our content on the web. There is a lot of good stuff, over 150 sites in Spokane and Cheney, with more on the way.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Explore Some Small-Town Museums with TinCan



I am continuing to keep the blogging light to work on some pressing projects. Here is something neat that I discovered the other day Tin Can's Youtube channel, which includes a series of short video visits to small-town museums in our region.

Every small-town in eastern Washington seems to have a history museum, but they are hard to visit. Most are staffed by volunteers, open only a few hours a month, and have little or no web presences. So these videos are a real service. They were produced as a part of the grant-funded Inland Northwest Memories Project

These videos are good but by no means exhaustive--there are dozens of additional small-town museums within an hour of Spokane. It would be nice to see someone pick up this project, perhaps as a part of a film course at a local university.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"There are 200,000 reasons to close the Troy Library. They’re called books."

I love this story. In Troy, Michigan, a third library bond was about to fail and the library close--when library supporters launched a clever campaign to save it:

 

 I like the line "they needed something attention-getting, audacious, and maybe even vile." Here is the Facebook page for the campaign.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nez Perce History presentation at Aunties

Spokane readers, have you bought a book from Auntie's lately? We are lucky to have a first-class independent bookstore in our community. In addition to selling books, Aunties regularly sponsors readings and literary gatherings. An upcoming author event may be of interest to readers of Northwest History:

William Craig
 Lin Tull Cannell, Author presentation

 Fri. Aug. 10, 7:00 pm
Auntie's Bookstore, 402 W. Main, Spokane WA 


Local author Lin Tull Cannell is a historian with expertise on William Craig, a native of Virginia who came out west in the mid-1800’s, became a mountain man, married into the Nez Perces tribe, and tried to mediate peace between the tribe and settlers from the east. Cannell visits Auntie’s to talk about her book. The Intermediary: William Craig among the Nez Perces. Please join us for this presentation, which is free and open to the public.

William Craig is fascinating figure in the very early white history of the region. A brief biography of him is here [PDF]. In 1918 an acquaintance of Craig gave a brief reminiscence to the Lewiston Morning Tribune. Cannell is the first person to write a full-length biography of this fascinating figure. Support your local bookstore and turn out for this presentation!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Northwest History Films from North of the Border


Voyageurs ,The, National Film Board of Canada

The National Film Board of Canada has hundreds of movies online. You can stream them for free or pay for a download or DVD. The films are both historic and contemporary and cover an array of topics, including history (here is the history page). Above is a 1964 film, The Voyageurs.

There is a lot of northwest content here, with additional films on the fur trade, Red River, and native peoples of the Canadia northwest. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Which Tracy Rebstock and I are Interviewed

Tracy Rebstock and I on Just a Theory
Just a Theory is a local public radio interview show, hosted by ridiculously entertaining EWU faculty member Tony Flinn. Each week Flinn interviews professors, either from EWU or a lesser institution, about their research. I have always wanted to be a guest on Just a Theory, but I am not accomplished enough. 

This week however I was able to ride the coattails of my superb former graduate student, Tracy Rebstock, and be on the program. Rebstock's MA project in lieu of thesis was to tell the history of Spokane's parks in a series of stops for the Spokane Historical mobile app. Flinn saw Rebstock present her work at the EWU Creative Works Symposium and asked her to appear on the radio program.

Flinn interviewed two student/professor teams, Rebstock and I begin at 15:06.

Just a Theory #88 - Student/teacher mentor teams

Download File

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Death of Cromwell Dixon, 1911

October 3rd, 1911 New York Times headline
Cromwell Dixon was an important early aviation pioneer. As a teenager he flew homemade dirigibles at airshows across the U.S. In 1911 at the age of 19 he was awarded the 43rd pilot licence in the country, and just months later became the first person to fly over the Rocky Mountains. He was fresh from that triumphs when he plunged to his death performing at the Spokane Fair later that year.

I learned of Dixon from Jon Gibbs, a user of Spokane Historical, the EWU smart phone app for exploring local history. From contemporary news stories Gibbs was able to find the precise location of the crash--it happened between two sets of railroad tracks near the intersection of Trent and North Fiske Avenues in the Valley.

Gibbs first learned about Dixon from this segment of  History Detectives (transcript here):

 

Thanks for the tip, Jon! This is the just the kind of great, forgotten local story that we are looking for to include in Spokane Historical.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Andrew Sullivan: We've Already Had a Gay President: Abraham Lincoln

So he does not have a PhD in American history--take a listen to my man Sullivan for a moment:



I think that Sullivan is almost certainly correct. Lincoln shared a bed with Joshua Speed for years, long after both me could have afforded beds and rooms of their own.You will often hear this explained away as a common practice back in the day, and at crowded roadhouses or in army barracks this was true, but it was absolutely not common with two rising professionals who could have easily afforded their own rooms. And Lincoln also shared a bed with a man, Captain David Derickson, in the White House when he was president. There were rumors of homosexuality (though the term did not yet exist) during Lincoln's life. If it were any other 19th-century figure, we would take the same set of evidence as at least indicating a strong possibility that the subject was gay. 


I am very much reminded of the sexual relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. Despite abundant evidence that the two had a long sexual relationship that produced children, the very idea was rejected outright by the Jefferson historical establishment until modern DNA analysis made it undeniable. Racism served as a historical blinder to seeing the truth that was right in front of us. The same is true of homophobia and Lincoln's gayness. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Crash Course in World History

It is summer, I have a book manuscript to finish, so for the rest of the season I will be posting videos and silliness. Deep thinking will resume in the fall.

I had heard about the Crash Course in World History videos a ways back, but unthinkingly dismissed them as some cartoon-y gimmick. I got around to actually watching one yesterday, and it turns out they are really good. A little background here. Their YouTube channel features 24 world history videos, with topics from the Indus Valley Civilizations to the video below on the Columbian Exchange:

I

The videos are so much better than I expected, with up-to-date historical interpretations, good production values, and wit. They would be excellent in the high school or even college classroom as an activity to build student interest. I could do without the cinnamon challenge in the middle of the Columbian exchange, but then I am not the target audience. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Come There Ain't no black People in Mayberry?

[In honor of Andy Griffith (1926-2012) I am reposting this 2008 piece.]



There is a real historical point to be made here. The Andy Griffith Show ran from 1960 to 1968, at the very height of the Civil Rights movement. For millions of white Americans part of the appeal of the show was its nostalgic portrayal of an idyllic South, one without bus boycotts or sit-ins or indeed any black people at all.

How did I find this? Well, today Kevin Levin over at Civil War Memory posted a little clip from The Andy Griffin Show in which it is revealed that no one in the town of Mayberry seems to know what the Emancipation Proclamation might be. Well why should they, I thought, there were no blacks in Mayberry. Suddenly it occurred to me how strange it was that the most popular TV series ever set in the American south didn't have any black people. Or did it?

I Googled up this defensive fan FAQ: "There are MANY towns in the south without black people. Also, you are wrong that there were no blacks in Mayberry. If you watch the people in the background, you'll see several black townspeople walking down the sidewalk and being a part of town."

That FAQ included a link to the delightful African-Americans in Mayberry page, where some fellow posted a bunch of screen captures, mostly of street scenes in which some black person is walking past the main character. Red arrows helpfully point out the passing blacks, as we see below: