Stroll, walk, amble or saunter no matter how you do it youll find the journey through the Idaho Historical Societys Essential Idaho wonderfully fascinating.
The exhibit commemorates Idahos territorial sesquicentennial. Thanks to an interactive, community approach in compiling its pieces, the story it tells is rich, deep and fun.
I think its the best thing weve done in the 30 years Ive been here, says Jody Ochoa, director of the Idaho State Historical Museum. Its the most comprehensive and the most interesting to people. Ive lived in Idaho all my life and there were stories I didnt know.
Essential Idaho is filled with more than 150 interesting and captivating tales of history.
Did you know about Psychiana, the mail-order New Thought religion created in Moscow in 1928? Or the story of Ed Pulaski, the heroic firefighter who saved his 45-member crew during the Big Burn of 1910 by securing them in a mine tunnel? Did you know about the amazing exploits of Jackson Sundown, a Nez Perce rodeo star whom novelist Ken Kesey mythologized in The Last Go Around?
Ochoa and her staff culled 101 of these historic gems from more than 700 submissions from people across the state. Added to that is one from each of Idahos 44 counties and one from each of the states five Native American tribes.
A panel of historians vetted each story, then the staff foraged the archives and the state to find artifacts to match. They also sneaked in a few Quirky Idaho factoids for added fun. (Did you know that skiers in Sun Valley are thought to be the first to do the hokey-pokey dance?)
Its not organized chronologically. You encounter different decades at every turn, from the millions-year-old Hagerman horse through cyclist Kristin Armstrongs second gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
I call this the ADD exhibit, Ochoa says.
You can listen to music from the late, great jazz pianist Gene Harris, Gary Ellers recording of old Idaho folk tunes, and new songs from some of todays best Idaho musicians, including Built to Spill, Curtis Stigers and Josh Ritter. You can build a replica of the Idaho Statehouse with wooden blocks, watch a birds-eye view of Idahos terrain, put together a historic picture puzzle, dress up like Lewis and Clark and have your picture taken in a giant Idaho potato wearing a sour cream cape and broccoli hat.
Exploring the territorial sesquicentennial has given history a voice in this community that it didnt have before, says Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho Historical Society.
You can see and feel that in this multidimensional and honest portrait of Idahos past and present that includes the good, the bad and the ugly, she says.
You cant just talk about how great you are, because historys not that way, she says. We want to have things in here that have impacted the state and the country, whether they are proud moments or not.
So, youll find chapters from the darker side of Idaho history: the door to Randy Weavers Ruby Ridge cabin, Ku Klux Klan regalia found in Payette, items from the Aryan Nation compound in Coeur dAlene and a small swath of fabric from Gov. Frank Steunenbergs coat, found in a tree after he was killed by a bomb in 1905 at his Caldwell home. The explosion launched The Trial of the Century that brought Clarence Darrow to Idaho.
The 150th territorial anniversary is a statewide celebration that coincided with Boises sesquicentennial. When planning began more than a year ago the states economy was at an all-time low.
It was at the height of the economic downturn, Gallimore says. So there was no money to do anything. We had to find a new way to do it.
Gallimore and the Historical Society staff called on like organizations in all 44 counties to create their own sesquicentennial events.
We had templates for proclamations and press releases and tips for what makes an era important that they could download from our website, Gallimore says. She also met with tribal and civic leaders across the state to get everyone on the same page.
The way this exhibit came together started out as a necessity but it turned out to be a boon that will change the way the museum interacts with the community.
Its not just about were the experts, we know best, so were going to do it this way, Gallimore says. Thats an old model and that doesnt work any more for cultural organizations. Every time we do an initiative we now think broadly about how we can engage people in our process. Now we rely more on our community to share their expertise.
The result is a gratifying array of statewide celebrations that captured the essence of each community, Gallimore says.
Everyones history makes their community distinct and gives it identity, Gallimore says.
That identity builds values that are embed in that geographical location, and thats what gives people pride in where they live.
Thats the real prize of this exhibit, she says.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland