*Written by Scroll contributor Jordan Henrie
It may not be Palisades, California, and Mario Lopez probably won’t be in attendance, but from July 11 to 25, the Special Collections section of the David O. McKay Library will feature Saved by the Bell — a public history exhibit, created by BYU-Idaho students, focused on telling the story of education in Rexburg.
“Public history is work for and with the public, often outside of the academic setting,” said Roger Wiblin, the history professor over the exhibit. “For this exhibit, the class members interviewed people who have been part of the Rexburg and Sugar City communities. With our focus on the K-12 school experience, we wanted to hear what life was like for students in the area.”
An open house will be held July 11 to debut numerous artifacts community members loaned to the exhibit.
“We have letterman jackets from both Madison and Sugar-Salem high schools in the 1980s, flatware from the ’70s, records from the ‘50s and sports equipment from various decades,” Wiblin said. “In addition to the exhibits, visitors can participate in a scavenger hunt, write on our memory wall and if they attended a local school, add to our tally chart.”
The open house event will include light refreshments, and visitors can answer a question about the exhibit to enter a gift card drawing.
“We welcome families, with a scavenger hunt designed especially for children, and a portion of the memory wall designated for children to draw or write their favorite things about school,” Wiblin said. “As public historians, we have the opportunity to work with members of the community to create the exhibit, as well as tailor our presentation to the BYU-I and Rexburg/Sugar City community.”
The students in the Public History course have worked over the semester to create the exhibit — Saved by the Bell is an opportunity for them to show what they are learning.
Jake Frye, a junior studying history and one of the students involved in organizing and executing the exhibit, said he feels the exhibit is about finding connections in people’s personal lives and engaging the audience, not just displaying artifacts.
“It’s interesting to see the changes,” Frye said. “Most people that see this will either be locals or students — so this is directly about them. It’s personal for anyone living in Rexburg. It’s interesting to see where we’ve come from.”
In addition to organizing the Saved by the Bell exhibit, Frye and the other students involved in the class have volunteered their time at the Teton Flood Museum.
“We’re executing a plan and an exhibit but also volunteering in a history field, which even if we don’t go into museum work, just working with other people fosters communication skills — so regardless of what jobs we go into it can help us,” Frye said. “When most history majors only have the papers that they wrote, this helps to make us in this class stand out.”
Frye said he thinks the Public History course is distinct in the History Department and teaches practical skills that other classes don’t have the opportunity to explore.
“It’s unique,” Frye said. “There are no other classes in our major that give us the same experience. It’s something different — another perspective to take on history.”
The Public History course has only been offered on campus for two semesters but seems to be a promising new direction for the History Department.
“I love that this course gives students practical experience in public history, fulfilling one of the missions of the university to give students real-world experience,” Wiblin said. “It is fun for me as a teacher to watch them take the various principles and ideas we have talked about and create a project that benefits the community and the school.”