The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights in Boise will break ground in August for a new outdoor community classroom. The building project will complete the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial site at 777 S. 8th St. near the Greenbelt and the main branch of the Boise Public Library.
The open-air classroom, designed by Boise firm Erstad Architects, will be visually similar to the existing stone elements at the memorial and will provide permanent seating for 30 to 35 people, said Dan Prinzing, the Wassmuth Center’s executive director. The classroom will be located beside the existing Anne Frank amphitheater. It will include a metal re-creation of the desk where Anne Frank sat to write her famous diary.
A kiosk inside the classroom will explore the history of human rights in Idaho by telling the stories of groups of people who have faced discrimination in the state, including women, the Japanese, the Chinese, Basques, Jews, Mormons, Latinos, African-Americans, refugees, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. The story of the center’s namesake will also be included. Former Catholic priest Bill Wassmuth fought the Aryan Nations movement in Idaho.
The center is producing a series of 13 short videos, and each will show “a moment, event, piece of legislation, person or place significant in telling a story for that group,” Prinzing said. For example, the video about the Japanese in Idaho will focus on the Minidoka Relocation Center that held Japanese Americans during World War II. A video about Idaho Gov. Moses Alexander and the building of Synagogue Ahavath Beth Israel will detail the history of Jews in Idaho. Alexander was governor of Idaho in the early 1900s.
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The videos will show on a 55-inch screen in the kiosk, “showcasing both moments of human rights tragedy and moments of triumph,” Prinzing said.
The story project builds on and expands research done by celebrated human rights champion Marilyn Shuler, who died Feb. 3 and whose memorial took place at Boise State on Feb. 19. Shuler was a co-founder of the Anne Frank Memorial.
The kiosk video about women in Idaho will be a further tribute to Shuler, telling the story of her commitment “both personally and professionally,” said Prinzing, “to promote and protect human rights.”
Members of the community have been donating to the project in Shuler’s memory since her death, he said.
Lisa Uhlmann was a “founding mother” of the memorial with Shuler.
“Thinking of Marilyn and how I will never see her again in the current world makes me so sad. Yet the knowledge that her incredible work and legacy will be forever honored in the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial outdoor classroom brings happiness to her countless friends and her remarkable family,” Uhlmann said.
“Marilyn’s spirit will always be with us, constantly pushing us to never give up the fight to protect the human rights of all, combating bigotry and discrimination every step of the way. The torch is now ours, and we absolutely can’t let her down.”
The center raised $450,000 in order to break ground on Aug. 16, the 15th anniversary of its construction. It needs to raise an additional $500,000, according to Prinzing, and has launched the public portion of its fundraising campaign.
Andy Erstad, principal architect for the project, said he based his design on existing structures at the memorial to create a “light and airy classroom” that will be available and welcoming to neighbors such as The Cabin literary center and the library.
Erstad noted the bronze statue of Anne Frank that stands at the memorial.
“What I loved the most is that Anne is looking out into the world. We felt that with this design we could take that same notion but look into her world,” Erstad said.
No existing structures or memorial elements will have to be removed because of the construction of the new outdoor classroom, but it will cause the Greenbelt entrance to be relocated closer to The Cabin nearby. The new entrance will be aesthetically pleasing, said Erstad, but also safer for bicyclists and walkers.
Visit the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights at wassmuthcenter.org to learn more or make a donation.
More about the memorial site
The popularity of an Anne Frank exhibition that toured Idaho in 1995 inspired Leslie Drake, Marilyn Shuler, the Rev. Nancy Taylor and Lisa Uhlmann to found the Anne Frank Memorial, which opened in 2002.
Today, the memorial “education park” includes an amphitheater that re-creates the footprint of the Amsterdam room where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis until their discovery in 1944. The site includes a garden dedicated in memory of Boisean Rose Beal, a Holocaust survivor. A chestnut sapling taken from the chestnut tree that grew near the Franks’ hiding place grows in the Rose Beal Legacy Garden. The Wassmuth Center, located at the memorial site, offers educational programs, docent tours and more.
The memorial is the only one in the United States dedicated to Anne Frank. Learn more at wassmuthcenter.org/the-memorial.