Sisters Barbara Perry Bauer and Elizabeth Jacox never planned to work together at TAG Historical Research + Consulting in Boise, Idaho but now neither can imagine a better partner. We may have fought and ditched each other while we were growing up, but now we value each other for our different skills. We make a good team.
There were four sisters in our family (Elizabeth is the second oldest and Barbara is the youngest.) We were originally from New Orleans, but our dad worked for Kaiser Engineers and in 1960, he was transferred to Washington State to work on a construction project at Hanford–the first of several job transfers he made with Kaiser as we were growing up. In 1963 we landed in Idaho Falls, where he was, (as Barbara often likes to say), a “nuclear pioneer” working on the construction of facilities at what is now the Idaho National Laboratory.
Sisters Connecting over History
After Elizabeth finished high school, the family moved again, this time to Ohio. Elizabeth attended school at Idaho State University and after graduating with a B.A. in History was employed by the Idaho State Historical Society, which she considers a lucky break. Barbara moved to Ohio with our parents, but eventually found her way back to Idaho too. She attended ISU and the University of Wyoming before finishing at Boise State University. In the meantime, she worked for several years at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. So we both ended up gaining experience in the history field.
Fast forward to 1993–Barbara and a group of four other historians formed The Arrowrock Group, Inc., which operated as a sort of cooperative–the group sought out consulting jobs on a limited basis. Elizabeth joined the company in 1995 when one of the original members left. Over the years things evolved, and by 2005, the other members decided to pursue other paths, and Barbara and Elizabeth ended up with the company. At that time, since we were making several changes, we adopted our business name, TAG Historical Research + Consulting. We’ve been TAG ever since.
Professional Preservation Perspectives
There’s no denying that the past few years have been tough. We’ve managed to stay in business, but it continues to be a struggle. Because Boise State University has a master’s degree program in Public History, we are often asked to talk to students about career paths for historians, or how we came to have our business, and how specific knowledge is useful to have before starting a research or consulting business.
We have two suggestions about being a part of and starting a preservation-based business:
- The first is to get some work experience with a federal, state or local government agency or at a museum or library/archives. It’s hard to start a business without any connections, and a good way to make them is to spend some time in a job in your field. We support internships as a way to gain experience while in school—after all, Barbara’s college internship eventually led to full time employment at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. We offer internship opportunities when our schedule and project load allow it.
- The second thing we tell students is to learn how to run a business before you try to start one. There are always business classes to take in school, but there are also training opportunities through the Small Business Administration and through your state and local governments as well. We both knew a lot about research and history when we started this, but we didn’t have a clue about business. Don’t do it the hard way–learn something about the nuts and bolts of running a business before diving in.
Being flexible and offering diverse services have helped us stay in business. Our research skills and expertise have provided us with the background to do small projects such as writing a collections policy for a non-profit group with a small collection of artifacts and documents to a huge survey project for which we documented over 1,000 structures for an urban cell tower project.
Our jobs come through the RFP process and also through return clients and referrals. Return clients have been pleased with our work in the past and come back to us–sometimes it may be four or five years between jobs, but they come back because we do a good job, make the deadline, and work to insure that our clients are satisfied.
After a job is complete, we contact our clients to find out what they liked or didn’t like about our work, so we are continually evaluating our work. We believe that this has helped us get jobs and stay in business.
In 2013 we’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary as a historical consulting firm.
Recent TAG-Teamed Projects
Over the years we’ve worked on many interesting projects. Since we are both passionate about history and research, all our projects fascinate us. Of course, there are deadlines, and much of our work ends up in “gray literature,” but we’ve had fun. Among the interesting projects we’ve had since 2005 was a visit to the JO Ranch in Wyoming, where we drafted an interpretive plan for the site, which is now owned by the Bureau of Land Management.
The JO is in a remote location in Carbon County in south central Wyoming (that’s the ranch we show in the big picture on our Facebook timeline). Under contract with the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Transportation Department, we put together a team which included TAG, two graphic artists, and an exhibit fabricator to create two large interpretive exhibits. One of the exhibits is installed at the Pioneer Interpretive Visitor Center in Franklin, right on the Utah border, and the other at the Rock Creek Station/Stricker Homesite Visitor Center, near Hansen in Twin Falls County.
Recently we’ve completed agricultural property surveys in Twin Falls and Ada Counties. We just finished a small survey of agricultural properties for the city of Meridian, which was a small farm community west of Boise until the 1990s when our state’s explosive growth made Meridian the fastest growing town in the state. The agricultural landscape is disappearing fast.