Amber Beierle has a knack for facts. And aside from being months away from a graduate degree in History (emphasis on local history) from Boise State, the 25-year-old also holds the title of city historian. The office sponsors exhibits, lectures and publications on local history.
BW: What's the story about Boise's Office of the City Historian?
AB: I've been there about a year and a half now, which is the time this office was created. It was established to collect archives and manage the city history. Our information and research is available to the mayor, city council, anyone in city hall and the public. If anyone has a historical query, I research and write up a [report] for the public or city government. We want to eventually have this information available to the public ... , which will be on our Web site [www.cityofboise.org].
So this is a new office? How did it get started?
It was a collaborative effort with the city and Boise State University. Boise State provides the students and thereby the staff. The city provides the office and technology for us to perform research. There are roughly seven students, all graduate students and [Boise State professor] Todd Shallat is the direct supervisor.
How did you get the position as the head?
Well, that's an interesting story. I was graduating [in 2004] and Dr. Shallat told me this opportunity had come up. He basically said "I'd like you for this position." I'm passionate about local history. We went from there, I got a graduate assistantship, and it was beneficial for everyone. So you could say I was kind of hand picked, I guess.
You created an exhibit on display at the Capitol about the centennial anniversary of the assassination of Idaho's fourth governor, Frank Steunenberg. Local media quoted you as simply a graduate student, not the city historian. Do you find it difficult to be so young in a professional world?
I would say that attitude is more coming from me than from outside sources. I try to remain humble ... and in the end my work should speak for itself. I think young people do good work, and I think I'm a part of showing that. Besides, you don't have to be 65 years old to appreciate Boise's history.
About the former governor's assassination, it happened in Caldwell, which is where you're from. Did that have anything to do with your interest in the subject?
I think that's a perfect example [of my interests]. I had a huge fascination with this story that had riveted the nation but became something that 80 years later, when I was growing up, was never heard about. I didn't hear about the trial [that included then-labor boss "Big Bill" Haywood] and everything else that went on. Kids can get passionate about this stuff. It becomes real and relevant, which is my goal. People need to understand Boise is more than blue turf and foothills. What the city is now is great, but there's also this past and history that got us to where we are.
So you could say this is sort of your mission?
Ultimately it's what I want to do: to have history available to common people so they understand things are relevant to [current] day. I want to tell the bigger story and to show how Boise fits into a bigger story. Idaho's a bit of an enigma, and I think I really just like solving that puzzle.