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Culture of Reclamation (Armstrong, Lutze, & Woodworth-Ney, in progress) is a sequence of "videopoems" about Idaho, integrating poetry, historical photographs, music and videography in a video presentation, which also includes historical narrative. Three Idaho scholars in the fields of history, literacy education, and communication—the historian (Laura), poet (Jamie), and videographer (Peter)—collaborated on this cross-disciplinary project to reclaim a portion of the history of this state in a creative and engaging medium. Culture of Reclamation expresses a response to the culture of the early irrigated settlement communities along the Snake and Boise rivers. Between 1894 and 1920, a land rush to the arid western United States occurred as private investors and the federal government built irrigation projects to reclaim the sagebrush desert for farmland. Both men and women settlers contributed to the culture of the early communities, the men with a vision of an irrigated Utopia (Smythe, 1895) and the women with literary endeavors and civic participation (Woodworth-Ney, in progress-b).

In responding to the landscape and to the creative work of the early settlers, such as Clarence E. Bisbee, Annie Pike Greenwood, Mary Hallock Foote, and numerous clubwomen, we have deepened our sense of belonging to this place. Our work is both professional and personal. Through this project, each of us has developed new ideas about working within our disciplines and discovered creative ways to engage the history and geography of southwestern Idaho.

Our project represents just one example of the potential for university faculty from different field to collaborate on arts-based scholarly projects. According to Diamond and Mullen, "Arts-based inquiry is art pursued for inquiry’s sake, not for art’s own sake" (1999, p. 25). We also intend our project to serve as a prototype for cross-disciplinary projects in secondary schools. We hope to inform and inspire students in the future to explore the past with imagination as well as historical records.

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This document was originally published by Common Ground in International Journal of the Humanities. Readers must contact Common Ground for permission to reproduce this article.

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