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New Roads to the Past

Interactive kiosks developed by students deepen tourist experience on Forest Service Historic Roadways

For years, the Nez Perce and the Kootenai Salish people traveled through Idaho via trails that are now historic roadways. These trails – once used for seasonal travel and hunting – now serve as a path to connect all people with the past.

Elk City Wagon Road

History of the Elk City Wagon Road, which starts at Harpster, Idaho.

The U.S. Forest Service works to tell the stories of these roadways and maintain access to the trails. Natural resource experts fill the Forest Service, but their knowledge of multimedia storytelling is limited. Through a partnership with the University of Idaho, students provided the modern expertise to tell the stories of these roadways.

Two U of I faculty, Diane Kelly-Riley, associate professor of English, and Karen Thompson, director of professional writing and senior instructor, guided the interdisciplinary student team through the project over two semesters.

Students from the Moscow campus and U of I Coeur d’Alene worked together to create slide casts, podcasts, three infographics, a visual style guide to be used by the Forest Service for future visual materials, a one-page case for support handout to be given out at fundraising events and composed a larger grant to fund repairs or technology for the historic route.

“The students told the human side of the history of these roads,” said Cheryl Probert, supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests in Idaho. “This rich history deserves to be told in the creative ways that only students can imagine.”

Creating all the materials took two semesters, allowing more students to provide input into the project. The project also allowed students to take control over their learning.

"This rich history deserves to be told in the creative ways that only students can imagine." Cheryl Probert, supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

“We placed students in the driver’s seat for this project,” said Thompson. “The students controlled how their team would work to create the various communication products their client needed, including who would do what for each product, and they also took turns at being the project manager.”

Students worked to create digital elements such as infographics and podcasts to guide visitors through the roadways. Written and recorded accounts of the history of the roads are downloadable from the kiosks, which are located in small businesses in towns near the roadways. Each of the stands contains a localized internet router so the information can be downloaded onto a smart device, making it more accessible to the community.

The local impact from the project gained national recognition: The project was awarded the Regional Forester’s Award for Fostering Volunteerism and Partnerships and is a recipient of the Chief’s Award and the Undersecretary’s Award. These awards highlight Forest Service projects that connect the community with unique historic features and landscapes.

Thanks to the storytelling of these U of I students the history of these areas is now preserved and accessible to the community. The Forest Service hopes to continue to partner with the U of I students to ensure that crucial projects like this are successful.

Story by Katy Wicks, Intern, University Communications and Marketing
Published February 2021

Hear about Gertrude Maxwell, a long-term resident of the Elk City area, who published the book My Yesterdays in Elk City.

Mining in Elk City brought vast quantities of travelers along the wagon road. Health and social concerns followed.

English Department

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200 Brink Hall

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English Department
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive MS 1102
Moscow, Idaho 83844-1102

Phone: 208-885-6156


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