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Volunteers Make it Happen at the Idaho State Historical Society!

Volunteers are important members of our ISHS family! More than 100 volunteers across the state support our mission of preserving and promoting Idaho history. Our ISHS Volunteer Blog will feature a diversity of content including volunteers in their own words, volunteer impact on the agency, photos, and more.

Volunteer Voices

The Idaho State Historical Society is proud to highlight the accomplishments of volunteers, past and present. 

This month, we spotlight one of our most loyal volunteers, Virgel Clark, who has been volunteering with ISHS for five years. Originally from Oregon, Virgel moved to Boise in 1994 to work for Hewlett Packard, retiring in 2005. He now spends his free time supporting our mission at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, Idaho State Museum, and at various agency programs and events. Read more about Virgel and his experience with ISHS below.  

What is your education and/or career background?

I have a bachelor’s in business from Oregon State, and a master’s in international management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. I worked 24 years with Hewlett Packard, retiring in 2005 as a global logistics IT manager. I also served 37 years in the Army, with time in the Big Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve, both part-time and full-time. During my final seven years in military service, I functioned as the full-time state safety manager with the Army National Guard at Gowen Field, retiring in 2013.

What are your hobbies?

I love spending time with my German shepherd, Woofy, and enjoying the outdoors. I love locomotives and model trains, shooting sports, and volunteering with ISHS.

Why do you volunteer with the Idaho State Historical Society?

I volunteer with the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the Idaho State Museum because I enjoy history, becoming more informed about our wonderful state, and interacting with people. I am also a judge for National History Day competitions.

What has been a meaningful volunteer experience for you?

My most meaningful experiences involved being a docent with the Old Idaho Penitentiary exhibit, Righting a Wrong. It was interesting meeting people who spoke about their experiences associated with various incarceration camps. I especially remember a gentleman who told me about being a kid living near a camp in North Idaho and his experiences interacting with the German POWs on work detail.

What is your favorite part of volunteering with the ISHS?

My favorite part about volunteering with ISHS is doing things I would not otherwise get to do. My most fun experience was as a “bad guy” for a security exercise at the state capitol. We spent the day skulking nefariously through the building, trying not to be detected. As a reward, we received a tour of the very top of the capitol. I also love the Behind the Scenes tours we sometimes get at the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

What are your hopes for the future of the Idaho State Historical Society?

My hopes for ISHS involve seeing the agency continue to expand with historically significant properties like the Stricker Ranch in Hansen and eventually rotating exhibits with more artifacts on display.

Why do you think it is important for people to volunteer in the community?

Volunteering helps citizens become more engaged with their community and perhaps get a bit outside their comfort zone. They will always learn something about their community or themselves, which is a healthy thing!

Anything else you would like to share?

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts. I very much enjoy my experiences with ISHS and its people. They are great folks to work with, and they make volunteering worthwhile.


David has been an integral part of our agency volunteer team for seventeen years. A long-time tour guide at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, he recently began volunteering as a museum ambassador and tour guide at the Idaho State Museum. A trained EMT, in his spare time, David photographs graveyards and cemeteries across the country. We asked David to tell us more about himself and his passion for the Idaho State Historical Society.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Hammond, Indiana, right across the state line from Chicago. Hammond, like many cities, had a cool downtown area in the 50s and 60s. Being so close to Chicago, I spent a lot of time there going to the theaters, restaurants, clubs, and shopping at great stores that no longer exist.  

What are your education and career backgrounds?

After high school, I went to Calumet College and got an AS in Law Enforcement. I planned to make that my career. I did some work with local police agencies and dispatch during that time. After college, my selective service number came up, and I got a draft notice. I enlisted in the Coast Guard, but I was given an honorable discharge after about two months due to some allergies. In the mid-70s, I took a CPR course. My instructor was an EMT and suggested I take an EMT course to see if I’d like it. I was bitten by the EMS bug. I continued through paramedic training, graduating with my EMT/Paramedic license at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon, in 1979. I’ve worked in EMS ever since. I instructed EMD (emergency medical dispatch) courses for 18 years all over the U.S. and in Canada, Ireland, and Malaysia. For 30 years, I have conducted reviews of ambulance services for accreditation for the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services and paramedic training programs for the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education.

What are your hobbies?

I love trains. Since a youngster, until my move from Hammond to Oregon, I modeled HO scale railroads. My hobby that has turned into a significant project is photographing, researching, and documenting graveyards and cemeteries. I’ve been photographing cemeteries for over 20 years and teach classes on cemetery history and symbolism for Boise Schools Community Education and at history, genealogy, and paranormal conferences all over the U.S. My other hobby is vintage stereo systems. I love the old component systems and still have my “quadrophonic” stereo receiver, reel-to-reel tape deck, turntable, and speakers from the early 1970s.

Why do you volunteer with the Idaho State Historical Society?

As you can tell from my hobbies, I am a nostalgic person and love learning about history, cultures, people, and how we got to where we are today. A better understanding of the past brings a better understanding of the present.

What has been a meaningful volunteer experience for you?

I enjoy seeing people be genuinely interested in learning about history. I like answering questions and providing people with more knowledge and information than before. I also love always learning new things myself. While at the Old Pen, we constantly learned new things about the history and the inmates. I feel the same about the museum. There are always new things to learn. And I enjoy passing that information on to others.

What are your hopes for the future of the Idaho State Historical Society?

I hope to see the ISHS continue to offer new and exciting opportunities for the public to learn about the state’s history and people. There are few resources for the average citizen to go to where they can learn so much history about Idaho and about our ancestors and other people who came before us. I hope to see the ISHS continue to provide people with the knowledge of things they never knew existed in the state.

Why do you think it is important for people to volunteer in the community?

Volunteers allow the agency to provide many more benefits to the public that they usually may not have the money or personnel to provide. 

Volunteers benefit from the time and energy they put into their work by knowing they are doing something vital for the public. You are giving something to the community that is important and appreciated on your own time. Volunteering also provides you with an escape from everyday life.

Anything else you would like to share?  

 Even though the position is “volunteer,” it’s still important to be professional. Take the time to learn about where you are volunteering and all the details necessary to do it correctly. Volunteers meet the same expectations as “paid staff” at an agency. You still need to keep yourself at those high standards. My work in EMS has taught me that. Just because an EMT or Paramedic is a volunteer in the ambulance service doesn’t mean he can get away with less knowledge or skills.

Ashley has volunteered with the Idaho State Museum since the Fall of 2019 and is an integral part of our volunteer family. Originally from Idaho Falls, Ashley moved to Boise in 2012 to obtain her undergraduate degree in multi-ethnic studies. She received her master’s degree in 2019 in Public Administration and is currently a cash receipts technician at The J.R. Simplot Company. We are so thankful for her enthusiasm and hard work! 


What are your hobbies?

My hobbies include being outside and just walking. It does not matter if it is on the greenbelt or in the foothills. I also enjoy attending community events like concerts or sporting events.


Why do you volunteer with the Idaho State Historical Society?

When I graduated from my master’s program, I had more free time so I decided to volunteer. I chose to volunteer with ISHS as I always loved history. My father is history/government high school teacher so it is family shared passion.


What is your favorite part of volunteering at the Idaho State Museum?

My favorite part of volunteering at the Idaho State Museum is talking to people who just moved to Idaho or individuals who are out of state. It is an opportunity to show Idaho is not just about potatoes, even though agriculture is an important part.


What are your hopes for the future of the Idaho State Historical Society?

My hope for the future of ISHS is to get more young adults involved with volunteering. It has been fun and allows me to be part of the community. Even if they do not volunteer, I would like to see them visit the sites.


Why do you think volunteering is important?

I think it is important for people to volunteer in the community because it acts upon their passion. They are allowed to share their passions with the community.


What has been a meaningful volunteer experience for you?

Volunteering within the Idaho State Museum is meaningful every time I discuss the aspects of Southern Idaho Exhibit. Growing up in Idaho Falls and now living in Boise, it is sharing parts of my home.

We had the opportunity to interview Brittany Benton who volunteered with ISHS in 2019. She is currently using her passion and experience with our agency in her work as a Data Collector/Graduate Student in History at University of Massachusetts – Boston. She credits her volunteer work with the Archives as solidifying her interest in pursuing a career path in history. In her spare time, she loves to be with her dog, Dodge, exploring the outdoors and absorbing as much knowledge as she can through documentaries, podcasts and research.

Why do you have an interest in Idaho history?

Idaho was the first true place I lived away from home. Before moving, I worked with local historical documents and found solace in that. I wanted the same feeling of connection where I was laying roots once I moved to Boise.


What are your career goals?

I’m still unsure, but I’m certain it will be a career where I can continue to further my education. I’ve seen there are doors that can be opened to career paths I could’ve never imagined, but that it isn’t always easy to discover them as they’re not part of society expectations. The historical society allowed me to immerse myself into Idaho culture and to better connect to where I was living.


In your opinion, what is the most fascinating part of Idaho’s history?

I found most fascinating uncovering the Wild West past of Idaho. It’s something that mostly is only read about or watched fictionally, but I was able to dive and learn from firsthand primary documents. Idaho has progressed so far yet the Wild West still has a hold on the present day. 


What were your duties when you volunteered in the Archives?

I primarily was doing cataloguing of archived materials for the historical society’s online databases. The large majority of this was government related records. 


How did your volunteer position in the Archives contribute to your current educational/career goals?

Working for the Idaho State Historical Society continued my yearning for education and the world as it is in the past as well as how it connects to the present. Without the Historical Society, I may not have pursued history. It solidified my decision that this was the path I wanted to take. My main takeaway was finally having answers to what direction to take in history as well as that history can be pursued as a career.


Why should others volunteer for the Idaho State Historical Society?

Volunteering for ISHS is an opportunity to immerse yourself into your own very local culture and continuously push yourself for better understanding of not only how you live, but how others before you did. Volunteering here taught me that I could have my research and practicality all in one. 


Any other comments you would like to add?

I also had the opportunity to meet some incredibly amazing people with so much knowledge and insight into the field of history. It isn’t every day I get to meet others with this passion. Being surrounded by likeminded people for even just an hour a week is comforting and inspiring. 

Thank you, Brittany, for all the work you have done for us and we wish you the best in your career!

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