Idaho history is for everybody. The statewide National History Day in Idaho program works to convey that message to students in the fourth through 12th grades by hosting a multi-tiered contest that progresses from regional to national competition. Students can write papers, build websites, create documentaries, construct exhibits or even orchestrate performances that interpret some element of Idaho history. Roughly 2,500 Idaho students participate each year.
As someone who loves Idaho history and is so excited to see kids becoming involved, I wondered what we at the University of Idaho Special Collections and Archives could do to support National History Day in Idaho. While we welcome K-12 students, and indeed everyone, to make an appointment to study our archived materials, I knew there had to be a better way to reach out to kids across Idaho. History Day projects, by the nature of the program, often tend towards local history. Even as a librarian, local history can be hard to research. Sometimes we may be unaware of the historical events and people who lived just down the street, but in another time.
So I created the Idaho Bibliography Project as a way to make local history more accessible. Prior to the pandemic, I traveled around the whole state, to libraries, historical societies and museums looking to discover every nonfiction book about Idaho history. While we think of every book being listed online, through services like Amazon or Worldcat, the fact is that some books are not. Many local history books had only a small number of copies printed, and prior to the 21st century, that printing was not captured by an online service the way that a small press or self-published book would be today. I captured the basic information about those books so they could be easily discovered though a website or by a printed bibliography or list of books.
We have recently upgraded the Idaho Bibliography Project to include an interactive map, which makes it easier than ever to discover that history happened just outside your back door. Books are also described by subject matter, author and location and are laid out on a timeline. We wanted to make it as easy as possible to discover books about Idaho history by whatever method might make the most sense to the researcher.
Even though the Idaho Bibliography Project was created with students in mind, it is a great resource for anyone with an interest in Idaho history. While Google and sites like Wikipedia may be good resources for learning more about subjects you know a little about, tools like the Idaho Bibliography Project help you discover entirely new things that aren’t highlighted in a traditional search engine.
I did my best to discover as many nonfiction books about Idaho as possible, but the history of the Gem State is so deep and rich that you may know about a book I need to add to the project, and that is great! I want to hear about it and get it included.
I hope that you make some great discoveries about Idaho history, your history, as you look through the bibliography at www.lib.uidaho.edu/idahobibliography/. I truly believe that Idaho history is for everybody. The University of Idaho’s Special Collections and Archives are always ready to help you visit our shared past. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com or (208) 885-0845.
Robert Perret is a special collections librarian at the University of Idaho.