Boise State graduate becomes the state’s historian

In the summer of 2019, HannaLore Hein became the fifth state historian at the Idaho State Historical Society, and the first woman to hold the job since it became a credentialed position in the 1950s. That fact feels timely. In 2020 the society will mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment that recognized women’s right to vote. Hein will help oversee events, exhibitions and legacy projects, including a book and a film, that will chart women’s contributions to the state.

“I recognize that the tasks that are part of this position are important, not just for the functioning of the agency, but for all Idahoans who want to feel connected to their past and build on what’s to come,” said Hein, a 2015 graduate of Boise State’s Applied Historical Research master’s program.

Hein spent part of her childhood in Boulder, Colorado until her parents, who ran an insurance brokerage, moved the family to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Hein became fluent in Spanish. At Boise State, she was an inaugural member of the university’s Venture College. There, she meshed the love of business she inherited from her parents with her love of history. Hein and her fellow students each pitched ideas for potential businesses. She was interested in finding ways to use her expertise to help longstanding Idaho companies capitalize on their histories to sell products to newcomers and open new markets in Idaho and beyond. She gained “a skill set that set her apart from others in her field,” said Nic Miller, Venture College director.

Hein’s master’s project explored the history of the Egyptian Theater. The Boise icon, she said, represented more than the design trends of Egyptomania that swept the country following the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

“It represented the people who built it, the local materials and a sense of place,” she said.

Hein built a prototype of an interactive exhibition that could sit in the lobby of the theater to tell the corporate histories of the firms behind its construction (the Hummel architectural firm and Jordan-Wilcomb Construction, both still operating) and the broader story of the entertainment modes that were present in the West that helped make Boise the city it is today.

“The analytical component of that project was to ask how we can market this story of a historic place that is still operating with its original purpose,” said Hein.

She worked as a full-time research historian with Stevens Historical Research Associates in Boise, the firm headed by Jennifer Stevens, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Public Service. The job grew from Hein’s internship during her graduate program. Hein provided litigation support for environmental law surrounding issues like historic water rights and superfund cleanups. She honed her research skills and eventually took on a business development role working to diversify the firm’s income stream and build its social media presence.

“I used what I learned in the Venture College to think of our audience and the value of what we were doing, then to test those assumptions,” said Hein.

While at the Venture College, she became familiar with the Business Model Canvas, a method that breaks the elements of a successful business into nine “cells” that focus on the value of services, customers, the channels to reach customers, revenue streams and more. She brought a copy of the canvas to her job interview for state historian.

HannaLore Hein
HannaLore Hein at the Idaho State Museum. Allison Corona photo.

“The society was looking for someone with an entrepreneurial background because the staff wants to take the knowledge we have and make it available to the public in new ways,” said Hein.

Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, oversaw the recently reopened Idaho State Museum’s renovation and expansion. She was drawn not only to Hein’s strong academic credentials but to her work in the private sector.

“This gave her a different point of view in thinking about history and its relevance,” said Gallimore.

The role of state historian required someone who could be mindful of the past, but be able to think differently about the society’s future and its connection to Idahoans across the state, Gallimore added.

“We have the opportunity to leverage content in new ways, looking at history in the era of social media, engaging people in rich content and artifacts through technology,” Gallimore said. “HannaLore’s skill set will be exciting for Idaho history. I could not be more thrilled that she’s on our team.”

Hein’s ambitions include reviving the historical society’s publications program, enlisting skills she learned at Boise State to make sure the process is data-driven and effective.

“I want new scholars to have an opportunity to leave their mark,” said Hein. “I want Idaho’s story to be heard on a national level.”

Quick takes:

Q. What is a great Idaho story that needs to be told?

H.H.: The story of Margaret Roberts. After I started my job I began researching past state historians. I was looking at biennial reports and Roberts’ name came up in the report from 1943. At that time she was the librarian and secretary – the sole staffer of the historical society. She asked lawmakers for money for more staffers and resources. She was from Hailey, Idaho, active in the Idaho Republican Party and the Columbian Club (one of Boise’s oldest, and still operating service clubs). She was an Idaho delegate in the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D.C. After she passed in the 1950s, her family donated her papers to Harvard University.

Q. What’s your favorite artifact in the state’s collection?

H.H.: An artifact that is related to both Margaret Roberts and suffrage history – the banner of the Idaho Council of Women’s Voters, carried by the Idaho delegation in 1913. Margaret Roberts donated it to the state collection. It’s an incredible piece. It’s hand painted silk. It includes the state seal, 1896 (the year women got the vote in Idaho, predating the 19th Amendment), and syringas (the state flower).

Q. If you could be an eyewitness to any historical event, what would it be?

H.H.: I would have loved to have seen any speech by Teddy Roosevelt in person.

Q. What’s a must-read history text?

H.H.: “The Legacy of Conquest” by Patty Limerick (one of Hein’s undergraduate professors at the University of Colorado-Boulder). That book was the first book that I read that started me on a path of interest in the history of the American West. The book came out in the 1980s and transformed the field. She let the story in the grey areas be told and got rid of mythic interpretations of Western history.

Q. What’s Boise’s greatest architectural prize?

H.H.: The Egyptian Theater, and not just because of its uniqueness. It stopped the wrecking ball. (In the 1970s, the Egyptian, then known as the Ada, was threatened by urban renewal).

– Story by Anna Webb