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Archival Research through the Lens of the Docent

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Archival Research through the Lens of the Docent

By Nancy Ruth Peterson

“So, do you have any more information about the house’s history?”   “Who were the people  who lived here and what were they like? “  “What is the history of this house?”

Visitors to the McConnell Mansion often asked these questions when I am the docent.  My curiosity was aroused, and it became my quest to answer those questions in the form of a tri-fold pamphlet that we could hand out when people expressed an interest in knowing more than the docent’s talk and their time-limited visits could give.

After diving into the archives at the Centennial Annex, followed by time on the computers doing more research, looking through Legacies of the past, and finally, going to the University of Idaho and spending afternoons with Dr. Church by reading his diaries, much more than a tri-fold came to be.

Reading letters to and from the residents of the McConnell house, looking at photos of the families at work and at play, seeing the news articles, and even some legal documents made the people of the house come alive.

While Mrs. McConnell had “at homes” and teas in the formal parlor for the ladies of Moscow, “Poker Bill” McConnell had card parties in there too.  Margery Adair sang recitals for her family and others in this room.   Weddings were held there. The grill work in the two parlors was created by J.J. Anthony to compensate for the red velvet which wasn’t quite long enough to cover the windows adequately.  And one of the sections of grill work is installed upside down!

The cedar shutters throughout the house are custom made and numbered, as are the windows frames so that the correct shutter is with the correct window.  They don’t open and close correctly if they are on the wrong windows!

Stories and stories and stories.  They are available in the archive boxes, on the computers, in the old editions of the Latah Legacy, on tapes of oral histories, in files of photos…so many places to spend an hour, a day, a month researching and learning.

The LCHS archives are open for all of us Tuesday through Friday from 8am-4pm.  Join me in finding about the past—Latah County’s, the pioneers of our area, and your own!

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