History journal makes history
BOISE – Two years after Idaho Yesterdays was shut down by state budget cuts, a group of historians, professors and history buffs from around the state is working to revive Idaho’s only historical journal.
The first issue of the new Idaho Yesterdays is out this week, with vivid photography, articles telling untold stories of Idaho’s past, eyewitness accounts and unpublished historical documents.
“We think there’s an audience out there for Idaho history,” said Todd Shallat, director of the Center for Idaho History and Politics at Boise State University. Besides, he said, “If there’s no one to publish the research about Idaho, then no one will do it.”
Shallat said he doesn’t know of any other state that lacks a journal of historical research. Idaho Yesterdays was published without fail for 45 years – from 1957 until 2002.
But in 2002, state lawmakers made sharp cuts in the budget of the Idaho State Historical Society, which published the journal. The job of the historian who had edited the journal for 27 years was eliminated, along with many others. The cuts were so deep that the state historical library lost its entire state-supported budget for buying books and microfilmed newspapers, as well as its budget to maintain the state’s historical buildings and sites. Those cuts haven’t been restored.
In the past two years, history professors and others became increasingly concerned about the lack of a state historical journal. History and American Studies professors from Idaho State University approached the Historical Society to discuss how it could be revived. They surveyed other states, and looked into what works best in state historical journals.
ISU offered to provide the editing, and Boise State University offered to handle the graphics and production. That left the Historical Society with just the cost of printing and mailing. Plus, the group secured a one-time, $5,000 grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, and another $3,500 grant from the Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
“The revitalization of this important resource for Idaho history could not have been possible without the spirit of cooperation and generosity exhibited by our institutional partners,” said ISU history professor Laura Woodworth-Ney, the new editor. “The state agencies have come together to save the journal, which, in preserving Idaho’s past, provides a great service to the people of Idaho.”
Shallat added, “The combined publishing and research expertise of the state historical society and two public-spirited universities has done something no single agency could have accomplished alone.”
Shallat said the new Idaho Yesterdays is designed for a broader audience than just academia. “The reading public wants to learn about Idaho,” he said.
Articles in the new issue include “Two Summers on the Salmon,” a memoir of the 1952 firefighting season; a new examination of a Japanese-American internment camp at Kooskia during World War II; and “Diary of a Fishing Trip, 1916,” an eyewitness account.
There are also book reviews and other features. This issue is themed around the interaction between people and the landscape in Idaho, and features extensive color photography. The next issue will focus on the historic diversity of Idaho’s peoples.
Shallat, a history professor, said, “I’ve written a bunch of books about Idaho, and I’ve always found that those things sell really well. There are people out there that are just curious about Idaho history. … They want to read engaging stories.”
In addition to Historical Society subscribers, the new journal will be available to all, through sales in bookstores and anywhere else its supporters can think up.
“It’ll certainly sell in the airport, in museum shops, at national parks and monuments, at state parks,” Shallat said. “We think it’s a nice Christmas gift.”
Plus, Shallat said the new publication also will be useful for Idaho schoolteachers, who teach Idaho history to fourth-graders. Lesson plans and curriculum information to match up with articles in the journal will be made available to teachers through a companion Web site, he said.
Shallat hopes the new Yesterdays will be successful enough to attract advertisers to help fund it into the future.
Bobbie Viker, administrative manager of the Idaho State Historical Society, said about 600 people still are members of the society and pay the $40 annual membership fee ($20 for seniors or students), even though for the past two years, they haven’t gotten the quarterly journal that long had come free with membership.
Especially now that the journal is being revived, Viker encouraged people to become Historical Society members. “Not only do they get the wonderful magazine and a newsletter, but they help support Idaho’s heritage,” she said.