Boise at risk of losing pieces of its history

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - A large part of the City of Boise's historical records, artwork and artifacts could be at risk of disappearing. Boise is in violation of city code when it comes to where it stores and how it maintains historical items. The city's Department of Arts and History says this problem needs to be dealt with soon.

Pieces that define Boise's history can be found just lying wherever there's space around town, because there isn't a central place to keep them. Boise's city code requires that historical items be stored properly. But Cheryl Oestreicher, Head of the Special Collections and Archives Department at Boise State University, says the city's documents and artifacts are at risk because many of them are not in a special, controlled storage space.

"The biggest part is temperature and humidity control, and light as well," Oestreicher said. "When there are fluctuations in temperature, things can kind of expand and contract, like ice cubes when they freeze. They expand. So, that ongoing can cause damage to a lot of items."

Damage that could occur includes disfigurement or deterioration. Storing the pieces in various offices and rooms around Boise also puts them at risk of being stolen.

Director of the Department of Arts and History Terri Schorzman says not having enough safe space for archives also means that when the city gets offers to take old collections, it often has to turn them down.

"We'd love to take those things," Schorzman said. "We've been able to take some, but again we just don't have a spot for them."

Schorzman says the staff required to take appropriate care of those items isn't there either.

"City code requires that there be someone that really monitors and looks at those documents that are historic," Schorzman said. "It's been about 15 years since we've had an archivist or someone to do that."

Schorzman says Boise's failure to meet these standards now could negatively affect those who live in the City of Trees in the future.

"If we didn't protect what we have now, we don't have any treasure or asset for them to look back at," she said.

The Department of Arts and History will go before Boise City Council Tuesday afternoon to propose a plan to strengthen the city's preservation of historic materials.