I have seen a few maps pop up lately as memes to help add some lightness of our current living situations. Map-making has been around for a long time, to help us make sense of the world around us and help us find our way.
Bonner County can claim association with one of the early map makers of the Pacific Northwest, David Thompson. Thompson made maps and explored the region around Bonner County in the early 1800's as an employee of The Northwest Company. You can read about him in this Sandpoint Magazine article here. Now that the Museum is open, you can visit the The Early Years exhibit on the upper floor and learn more about David Thompson and the fur trade established during his time in the region.
Maps are interesting and beautiful, and we use them for so many different purposes. Some of my favorite maps are the ones of fictitious places found in books. I love resisting the urge to look at the map until after I am well into the book and have some context for the places referenced. Maps are often used as parts of games and video games. Think about the recent places you have seen maps other than the Google map on your phone. Speaking of Google, check out how they use a map to tell a story here.
Now we have seen maps as jokes, maps for navigation, and maps to tell a story. It is time to create your own map. Start by studying some different styles of maps an identity the significant features. I imagine it would have taken a special skill to be able to create a map without the technology we have today. Read about the steps that early mapmakers would follow and try some of them out. Next, pull out your sketchbook and choose something to map. A place you have visited, your neighborhood, maybe even a map of your bedroom. Get creative and do Bonner County as Middle-earth (if you are in the mood for a mash-up). Take it seriously or make it a meme! Regardless of the kind of map you make, think about David Thompson exploring our region and making one of the first published maps of the area. Join the tradition of local cartographers. Share your creations #athomewithBCHS.
Now that the weather is getting nicer and walking through town seems like an option. It is a great time to consider going on a historic walking tour of Sandpoint. The walking tour can be downloaded to your phone to make navigation easy. Each location has a description of the building and why it is historically significant. There is both a shorter downtown version that is centered on the shopping district and a longer version that takes you farther into the historic neighborhoods. A great way to get fresh air and exercise too. You could hop on a bike or rent a surrey (available at Murphy's) to bike around from location to location.
Here are some suggestions for adding some extra fun:
Share your sketches, photos, and experiences of the tour with us on social media #athomewithBCHS
I have always struggled with coming up with gifts for my mom on Mother's Day. I completely adore her, but I never know what to get her to show that. Luckily, she is gracious and usually fine with a card or a hug. Maybe this year, I will give her the greatest gift...
In college I had an assignment to conduct a life history interview of someone who inspired me. I picked my favorite teacher in high school. I spent three hours with her (and an old-school iPod) just listening to story upon story of her experience growing up in Germany during WWII. I was completely blown away by how interesting someone’s life’s story could be. After that assignment I realized I could have this great moment of connection and learning with anyone who would agree to sit down to be interviewed. I started with my Grandma, who had been diagnosed with cancer, and it completely shifted my relationship with her. She had always been the mythical creature of a Grandparent- kind, loving, fun- but lacking a backstory (I realized, I had never asked). During the interview I had the chance to pose questions about her childhood, old friends, her successes and failures, her marriage, and her children (including my mom). I got let into secrets I would have never known. I think she got to get a few things off her shoulders that she may not have imagined sharing. That day, our relationship changed--it deepened. I realized I had never taken time to really see her outside of her role as Grandma, until then. I am so glad I had those hours with her, and heard all those stories before she passed away the next year. During the whole interview my Grandpa kept finding excuses to shuffle by to stick his head in the room. I'm not sure if he was desperate to hear what she was saying or a little envious that she was getting the spotlight (later he asked when he would get his turn). It was in that moment that I discovered "the greatest gift". Really sitting with someone, asking, and listening to them is the greatest gift. It is a gift for them and a gift for yourself.
This year seems like the year. We are all spending more time at home, breaking old patterns, seeing more of each other. Maybe it's the year you give your Mom or loved one an oral history interview for Mother's Day.
Here are some links to help you prepare:
The Yorkshire Museum recently challenged curators around the world to a #curatorbattle to showcase the #creepiestobject in their collections. Museums are sharing these objects on social media for the public to enjoy at home. The Bonner Country Historical Society Museum has quite a few creepy objects in the collection. What are the creepiest objects in your house?
Meet our albino crow (pictured above)
Here is the account: Nesbitt, who is an engineer, was building a bridge near Hot Springs, Montana in the spring of 1940 when he noticed a flock of about 100 crows nearby. The crows were excited and swooping down on a bush. When he investigated, Nesbitt found a full grown true albino crow with pink eyes. Everytime the albino tried to get out of the bush the black crows would swoop down and chase it back. Nesbitt got a .22 caliber rifle and shot the albino. For many years it was mounted and on display in his summer home on Lake Pend Oreille. He also reported seeing another white crow in a museum in Helena, MT but it had some dark feathers and was not a true albino.
When you look at this one, it doesn't seem creepy until you realize what it is... I don't think I would want to keep it sitting on my shelf.
On December 9, 1953, a plane appeared out of an overcast sky and crashed into the edge of the McFarland pole yards. It threw 30-foot poles in the air like matchsticks and shattered windows at the Lincoln School several blocks away. The jet was a Sabre F-86D fighter, attached to the 445th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron of the 4072d Defense Wing, stationed at Geiger Field in Spokane. The pilot of the plane, Lt. Jack Thomas Crawford, was killed instantly.
Robert Selle, foreman of the treating plant at that time, found the piece of helmet and gave it to his son, Dale Selle. A piece of a crash helmet from a tragic plane crash... creepy!
These ducks are super creepy... until you realize
They are fakes! Sideshows used to attract large crows with unique and creepy taxidermy animals. They were expected to be authentic, but when real two-headed calves weren't available taxidermy artists also fabricated hoax creatures called "gaffes". Gaffes ranged from mythical beings such as the chupacabra to a two-headed duck. This gaffe was created by Josh Bladzik.
Now its your turn
Think about your house or your bedroom as a museum. What objects or artifacts are surrounding you? What meanings do they hold? Where did they come from and why do you keep them around? Ever since childhood I have been fascinated by curious, uncommon, and unusual things. I think it is normal for humans to try to make sense the strange by studying it or keeping it close. It's why we watch scary movies and read true crime. For example, as a child I remember desperately wanting a rabbits foot as a good luck charm, and simultaneously being totally disgusted by it. What is the creepiest object lurking around your house right now? One of mine might be a dried out beetle in a jar. I found it last summer, big, dead, and unexpected. I just had to keep it around. Share your creepy objects in the comments of #athomewithBCHS.
I can't stop thinking about the present, past, and future right now. Maybe it's because things have slowed down and I have more quiet time on my hands? A few weeks ago I wrote about the 1918 flu and the "ban" on social activity in Sandpoint. Then I read about local citizens knitting socks during WWI, while Project 2000 was knitting masks for Covid-19. It made me wonder what we will look back on in 10, 50, and 100 years to remember this unusual time. What artifacts will define the experience of people in our county? What photos will we show our great grandchildren when reminiscing about the pandemic of 2020?
If the Museum were to have an exhibit on the 25th anniversay of the Covid-19 outbreak, what would be in it? It is our responsibility to tell this story. The museum has just launched a Covid-19 Archive Submission Form to allow you to easily upload photos, documents, and audio/video files. You can do this on your own. Maybe suggest it as a project to your history teacher. You can ask your friends and family to participate.
Need more of an idea how to do this?
People have been thinking about how to preserve our current history all around the country. Lucky for us, some Bonner County community members have already had some great ideas. Theresa Carlson shares her experience capturing a self-portrait in isolation on our Young Explorers blog. The Daily Bee recently wrote about local photographer Kiersten Patterson and her personal project Sandpoint Speaks Hope. As uneventful as things may feel, we are living in an important time in Bonner County history. Here are some other ideas on how you can help create and collect artifacts for our archive:
One of the great things about living in Bonner County is the history in our community. There are old houses, old buildings, old homesteads, and our downtown is filled with buildings with rich pasts. Just recently Nellie Lutzwolf the owner of the shop Wolf & Bell uncovered a little history. If you haven’t been in Wolf & Bell, it is filled with vintage treasures and Nellie’s original art. Just walking into the shop feels a little like walking into a museum. Here is a recent interview with Nellie about her love of history, her shop, and what she found under the floorboards during a recent remodel.
Q: Could you introduce yourself and your shop?
A: I’m Nellie Lutzwolf the owner and artist of Wolf & Bell whose main location is adjacent to the Panida Theater downtown Sandpoint. My favorite response to people coming into the store is, “this is a weird little shop.” It features an eclectic array of vintage, art, and other surprises like a photo booth. Some people are taken back to their own memories. Some people are fascinated because there are objects they’ve never seen before. For me it’s an extension of my own living space, and my love of vintage.
Q: How did you first become interested in history, and collecting vintage and antique artifacts?
A: Since I can remember my parents were dragging me to antique stores. They had a real passion for objects with a story, one that I didn’t share at the time. I used to hate it until they lured me in with allowing me to start my own collection. For a little girl who loved Peter Pan I decided to collect thimbles, which, if you’re familiar with the story, are kisses. Going to the antique store turned into a treasure hunt. As I grew, my collections grew, and so did the appreciation of the history and memories stored in each object. Eventually my Master’s Thesis dabbled in the power of nostalgia and memory in the art object.
Q: You have recently been working on some renovations in the shop, can you talk a little about your experiences? Have you found anything interesting or unexpected?
A: Historic buildings like the Panida are real gems and I’m so grateful I get to be apart of it! There is an energy in the walls that’s hard to describe, but it’s like you can almost feel the performances, movies, and events of years past. Plus I can smell popcorn whenever there’s a movie running! Environment is everything when you’re an artist, it can either make or break your creative mojo and being next to the Panida is the epitome of a creative space. Peeling back the layers is just a way of honoring the history. I wanted to replace the wood laminate ever since I moved in January 2019. When I was finally able I had high hopes to find something we could restore back to its original glory. After peeling back the first layer I found remnants of red vinyl composite tile. Then under the underlayment was what I imagine to be the original laminate flooring whose geometric pattern reminds me of Zenitherm Flooring from the 1920s. Unfortunately it was too far gone to function, but it’s still stunning with its blemishes and all, and worth sharing! Despite my sadness in not be able to restore it I know hardwood floors will honor the classic beauty of the building.
Thank you for sharing, Nellie! I love imagining what your shop might have looked like in the 20’s. I also have a new appreciation for old flooring- who knew it could be so interesting! I am also intrigued by the idea of all the historical mysteries we might uncover in our own houses.
Since we have all been spending so much time at home. Let’s see what kind of history mysteries we can find at home. Maybe you live in an old house, or even a historic house…have you thought of searching in the back corners of basements, floorboards, or behind walls? Talk with the your family, what is the story behind your home? Who lived there before you, who built it, when? Has it been remodeled? Ask if there are any spaces in your house that might be hiding clues to history- like under Nellie’s floorboards. Now, if you happen to live in a newer house, don’t worry there is still history to discover. Do a walk-through of your house and challenge yourself to find the oldest looking object you can find. Then ask someone to tell the story of what it is, and why they have it. You can also use museum archives to research your house or neighborhood.
Nellie's experience isn't the first time a local business has uncovered history. Sandpoint Super Drug uncovered a mystery under their floorboards last year when they found a hidden safe!
Share your own finds in the comments or #athomewithBCHS
Our lives have changed drastically in the last few weeks. Schools have closed, we have been asked to stay home, and we are living through a new chapter in our local history. Things we took for granted a month ago, are significantly different today.
I have found comfort looking back in history. Residents in our region have always had to be tough and resilient to survive. I feel less alone when I read the accounts of students during the influenza of 1918. I feel a little more brave when I gaze at photos of women knitting socks for soldiers heading to war. How did they cope? I want to pretend I have the same courage when my family member heads to work at the hospital. I find comfort in knowing that others before us have overcome great challenges, and I can look to them for inspiration.
Now it is our turn to record history for the future. Begin a pandemic journal. Journals we write today could become primary sources for what life was like during Covid-19. It does not need to be extraordinary, it just needs to describe your experience, right now, in this significant time.
In your journal consider these topics:
-How has life changed for you in the last few weeks?
-What do you do during your day?
-How is your home, town, and neighborhood different than it was before Covid-19?
-Record significant local and global news updates.
-What would you want someone in the future to know or learn from your experiences?
-Are there any positive changes or silver-linings in your current experience?
Have fun with this! Your journal can be unique to you. It can be handwritten, painted, video recordings, art, multimedia, or simply a photo collection. Record your experience in whatever ways feels right to you.
The Bonner County Historical Society accepts donations of historical documents, and will accept copies or experts from a journal written by you. Help create a lasting piece of history for our region. I know I will be sharing a copy of mine.
Many museums around the world are taking this opportunity to find new ways for people to enjoy their collections (Getty Museum and The Met). You can study art works, photographs, and artifacts closely and then find everyday objects to recreate the art.
(I used Instagram's Layout app to help me make a side by side photo)
For an added Bonner County connection, take a look at the Adopt an Artifact pages for inspiration. If you visit the Facebook page, there are lots of historical photos you can recreate!
Explore the museum website and pick out any image to recreate. Post your creations in the comments or Instagram #AtHomeWithBCHS.
Things may feel strange in Bonner County right now with pandemics and earthquakes, but inhabitants of the region have been overcoming hardships for a long time. Now that I have developed my skills at searching the local newspaper archives, I can't help but share some history of earthquakes past. This particular one was centered in Lombard, Montana, and gives you an idea of how earthquakes were viewed in the 1920's.
Take a look at some other reports from the Idaho Geological Survey of other major earthquakes in our history. Did you feel the quake today? Post your experience in the comments. Let's collect your personal accounts, these will be primary sources for future historians!
This isn't the first time Sandpoint has had to stay home.
In Fall of 1918, schools were closed and a "ban" was put on all social activities in Idaho. A new and dangerous flu was spreading across the United States after World War I. Towns had to take similar social distancing measures to protect citizens of all ages. These days we can look at newspaper clippings of the time to see what similariities there are between 1918 and now.
Your task: Figure out how to search through the newspaper collections. If you can find interesting news about influenza, viruses, and diseases that Sandpoint has battled in the past, send us a screenshot. We will share your great finds on Instagram #athomewithBCHS.