Reflections from 2014 Pacific Northwest Field School in Swan Valley, Idaho

13 May 2015 4:08 PM | Christine R Henry

The following are reflections from the 2014 Pacific Northwest Field School in Swan Valley, ID.  This year's Field School will be located in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area in one-week increments in August and September. Each session of the program will include hands-on projects at both sites, giving students ample opportunity to learn techniques of preserving a pioneer-era house and log cabin. Applicants may register for more than one week, with no-credit, undergraduate, and graduate credit options available. A Director's Student Scholarship is available. For more information visit the field school website



“For a student entering a field such as Historic Preservation, there couldn't be a better introduction than Pacific Northwest Field School. Not only do we have a chance to meet a few of our cohort and begin to develop those relationships, but we are gifted with the opportunity to be immersed in projects we otherwise might not have been until after we graduate.

The selection of people brought along to work with us was terrific. Before coming to Idaho, and purely judging my opinions on the brief profiles found on the website, I was intimidated by the people I would be coming across. Those worries quickly diminished, and I found the staff to be very approachable and furthermore, eager to teach.

Within those five days, I realized that I am much more of a “go-get-em” and hands-on learner. Although I enjoy and value research and writing, I realize now that I want to be as immersed as much as possible within any given project. However with that being said, I now understand to what extent preservationists have to go in terms of details in the form of measurements and like-materials. With that in mind, it is amazing to me the types of stories that can be understood just by understanding materials, dimensions, etc. 

In closing, this week was fantastic. The bonds made between my peers were a great surprise, and I am sure that they will continue to strengthen. I came into this program and this that week with a deep interest in Historic Preservation, and left with my love and affinity for the field growing even stronger. My urge to get back in the field hit me as soon as I pulled out of the campsite on the last day.”

-Participant of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School in Swan Valley, Idaho at the Fisher Bottoms ranch.




            “Day One: A bleary-eyed morning turns into an eye-opening afternoon.

When crawling out of my tent at around 6:50am on Monday morning, I thought to myself simply, “This will be a long week.” I was being a little bit of a negative-Nancy, but those sentiments quickly faded away as soon as I arrived to the Fisher Homestead. The physical nature of the walk to the site energized me. However, seeing the Loafing Shed and the newer cabin placed in front of the mountain backdrop with the aspens beginning to paint their surfaces, made me quickly realize that this was going to be an amazing opportunity…

In looking at the structure of the Loafing Shed, a story begins to unfold. In a remote region of Idaho, such as Swan Valley, the luxury of trained craftsmen did not exist. The Fisher family needed a place to keep their livestock, and they had the tools and materials to create one, but perhaps not the skill. When it came down to it, the Fisher’s didn’t seem to be concerned about preciseness or uniformity when it came to building the Loafing Shed. Furthermore, although being in rough form, the structure was still standing after being heavily weathered for over a century, so they obviously did something right."

-Participant of the 2014 Pacific Northwest Preservation Field School in Swan Valley, Idaho at the Fisher Bottoms ranch.

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