Have a story to tell about Boise’s history? Then check out BSU’s “Boise Wiki” project
Boise residents have a new place to tell their own stories about the history of the community they live in.
Leslie Madsen-Brooks, assistant professor of history at Boise State University, will unveil her public history project, the “Boise Wiki,” on March 21 in the Student Union Fisher Room.
Her presentation is the second in a series by The Arts and Humanities Institute called “Perspectives of the Arts and Humanities Institute.” Her presentation coincides with “Boise 150,”
the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding.
Madsen-Brooks noted that public history traditionally is defined as historical projects or programs created or led by professional historians and targeted at a public audience. The Boise Wiki hands the responsibility for crafting and editing local history to the amateur historians among the public.
“Public history projects thus have a chance to move from being exclusively for the public to being just as much of and by them,” she said. “This democratization is exciting.”
The Boise Wiki follows the Wikipedia model. But where Wikipedia asks for objectivity and requires the citation of sources, the Boise Wiki assumes that local, insider knowledge is valuable. Madsen-Brooks said this kind of subjectivity allows the community to explore what happens when its members craft history by beginning not with the national narratives they learned in school, but with their own lives. It opens discussions among community members about what sets Boise apart from similarly sized cities in the nation and in the Intermountain West.
It also lets residents collaborate to answer common questions. Boise residents, for example, often ask:
• What happened to Boise’s Chinatown?
• Why did Boise raze most of its downtown in the 1970s?
• How did the city become a refugee resettlement community?
• Why do old aerial photographs show the Boise River without the lush trees that currently grow on its banks?
• Were there really African-American neighborhoods where the connector now runs?
“The Boise Wiki offers Boise residents the chance to tell their own stories — a powerful way of constituting community,” Madsen-Brooks said. “In so doing it calls on the public to collectively recollect, reflect and move forward. As they write their histories, they will emphasize those places, events and cultural phenomena they value — and suggest a path for the city’s future.”
(photo: courtesy cityofboise.org)