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Three Idaho professors (a poet, videographer, and historian) have been collaborating for eight years on a cross-disciplinary project called VideoPoetry, which integrates historical narration, narrative poetry, historical photographs, and videography into the video medium. To this point we've worked primarily on a specific program, Culture of Reclamation, which explores the culture of the early irrigated landscape communities in southern Idaho. In reflecting on our work-process, we’ve discovered that we’ve fundamentally changed as scholars as a result of our collaboration. This paper identifies the nature of our changes and documents instances of the ways in which we have been challenged to expand our ideas about other academic disciplines and our own. To work within the constraints of VideoPoetry, a new mode of expression, each of us has had to modify our traditional methods. For example, the poet altered a poem’s imagery to suit the sequence and duration of video images. Through the poet’s exploration of the inner lives of historical figures, the historian learned how the imagination can take us beyond what historical sources are willing to tell. Culture of Reclamation is grounded in the transformation of the arid American West, which occurred about one hundred years ago. By focusing our work on the irrigation of southern Idaho, we have come to a greater understanding of the region where we work and live. The video medium allows us to share these insights as public history—the dissemination of scholarship and research to audiences outside of the academy. VideoPoetry compels us to envision collaboratively a narrative about our regional foundations. Through video, we are able to present to a broad audience the often overlooked but transformational power of irrigation projects to turn the arid West into a land of bounty.

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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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