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ERIC Number: EJ856342
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Aug
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Digitizing a Heritage of Faded Memories: A Case Study on Extending Historical Research Capabilities
Branting, Steven D.
History Teacher, v42 n4 p457-475 Aug 2009
A historical fact is like a fata morgana, "always less than what really happened." Even consensus does not establish truth; otherwise history is merely the version of the past that people agree to accept. The students who participated in the acclaimed 5th Street Cemetery Necrogeographical Study innocently found themselves clashing with accepted local history when, in 2001, they began to investigate the historicity of the persistent anecdotal lore from their town's pioneer days. The conundrum that would keep the students busy for five years emerged early, very early, long before the students, their parents, or their grandparents were born. Founded in 1861 as a supply station for the north Idaho gold rush, Lewiston had a very fragile economic future by the 1870s. Even more depressing was the image of the city graveyard located on a bluff above the town, which hugged the banks of the Clearwater River. One of the first important historical lessons students must learn is that different eras can be completely satisfied with antipodal solutions to the same concern. Used since the early 1860s for burials, the cemetery grounds had the look of an unkempt, insecure patch of weeds. The mowed and trimmed appearance of today's cemeteries would not be the vogue in the West until the twentieth century. This is not to say that the people who made Lewiston their homes after the gold claims played out had no civic pride. Acting on repeated petitions from its constituents, the city council finally authorized "a good substantial [white-washed, five-foot] picket fence" to be erected at public expense to keep roaming cattle from dislodging the markers and befouling the grounds, and to make the cemetery more presentable. A movement to relocate the cemetery altogether began as early as 1886, and by late 1888, further burial at the old site was forbidden by city ordinance; 40 acres had been purchased, platted, and readied for new burials and reinterments. Within a decade, the old grounds were ploughed and the fence removed to establish Lewiston's first municipal park--now known as Pioneer Park. The nature of a local history project, especially one enacted over such a span of time, offers students a multitude of learning opportunities. To provide a structure to analyze this necrogeographical project, the author considers in turn the context of the six facets of the national Historical Thinking Standard 4 (Historical Research Capabilities) and their applications to the project. (Contains 34 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Middle Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Idaho