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Stories matter

“A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more trusting, understanding, and open to ideas.” – Paul Zak, Neuroscientist, Claremont Graduate University 

Why an oral history archive?

Student voices need to have a place in university archives, both in terms of artifacts and use. Shared Stories Lab is leading the way in gathering, archiving, and expanding student oral history records in Boise State’s Albertsons Library. By offering opportunities for the students and the Treasure Valley community to engage with oral history research and collection, we are curating a database of knowledge available for generations to come. 

By inviting our community into the process of creating an oral history archive, we are creating opportunities for active listening and empathy.

The Process

Sharing Stories

Our team has used a variety of methods to give a platform to community members. Over the semesters, we’ve collected stories through graphic tellings, 2-5 minute interviews, and long-form conversations. 

As our project has grown, we have adapted and found a rhythm of mostly collecting stories told in 15-60 minute interviews. Our team of students organize, schedule, and plan interviews with individuals connected to the Boise State community, and then process and edit the recording if needed. Recordings are then tagged and placed in the digital archive hosted by Boise State’s Albertsons Library, which makes them available to researchers and the public.

Creating the Project

During Shared Stories Lab’s first semester in Spring 2019, students worked with faculty researchers Jill and Tiffany to develop ethical interviewing methods, create and pilot the story collection process, and build a fundraising plan for the project.

Since then students have managed fundraising campaigns, collected both written and oral stories, developed sustainable project management methods, and built partnerships with local stakeholders to elevate Shared Stories Lab to where it is today.

GEM 3 Stories: Sagebrush Steppe

Community Collaborations

Collecting Gems: Improving Workforce Communication and Listening Skills Through Documenting Oral Histories of Idaho’s Sagebrush Steppe

For this oral history collection, Boise State University students in the “Shared Stories Lab” Vertically Integrated Project course conducted interviews with community members living and working in Idaho’s sagebrush steppe in Spring 2022. The goal of this collection for students was learning: learning how to listen to the stories of others, learning how to ask questions, learning how to use equipment, and learning how to collaborate with community stakeholders. The process of collecting oral histories provided student researchers hands-on experience through the interview process, and we are thankful the students were willing to share the oral histories they collected, even when they were still learning to interview. The collection is also intended to document a range of Idahoans’ experiences and memories, from the past to the present.

This project was led by Boise State faculty Dr. Kelly Hopping (Human-Environment Systems), Jill Heney (Writing Studies), and Tiffany Hitesman (Writing Studies), in collaboration with Dr. Bob Reinhardt (History) and Eriks Garsvo (Owyhee County Historical Society, Museum, and Library).

We extend deep appreciation to the community members who took the time to talk with our students. We want to give special thanks to the Owyhee Historical Society, Museum and Library for providing space for interviewing. We are also very grateful to Mary Huff, Brenda Richards, and Scott Jensen for their help in recruiting interviewees.

Funding for this project was provided by the NSF Idaho EPSCoR Program and by the National Science Foundation under award number OIA-1757324.