On Wednesday, June 22, you may have noticed the large crowd gathered in front of the Idaho State Historical Museum in Julia Davis Park. I had the opportunity to be part of this historic event, the groundbreaking and blessing of the land for the Idaho State Historical Museum. As a member of the Foundation for Idaho History, I’ve been working on this project since 2014 and am excited to finally share our accomplishments with the public.
The Museum closed in August of 2014 for asbestos abatement and to remove all the artifacts (don’t worry; they are safely preserved in the Idaho State Historical Society’s warehouse). During the past two years our foundation has diligently worked behind the scenes to raise funds for the extraordinary new exhibitions being designed for the renovated museum.
Thanks to the help of a number of private companies and foundations, such as the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation and Zions Bank, we’ve been able to raise nearly $2 million of the $4 million in private funds necessary to create these world-class exhibitions.
This is the first time the museum exhibitions have been completely redesigned since 1950. The exhibition design process included focus groups across the state to capture the stories of our diverse communities. Scholars and educators were engaged to ensure Idaho’s new Historical Museum not only is integrated as part of the educational experience, but that it teaches history with methods relevant for today’s student.
Whether you’re interested in the story of stump farming in northern Idaho, endangered salmon in central Idaho, or Millner Dam bringing life to the desert in southern Idaho, the stories in Idaho’s Historical Museum will connect with everyone in the state. Our new Museum will feature breathtaking exhibitions that transform the Museum from a walk-and-read gallery to an interactive and immersive experience.
Not only will our shared story, the story of Idaho, be updated, but a rich first people narrative will be explored. Exhibitions are also being created that focus on children and families. In the Boomtown exhibition kids can load coal in a train, mine for gold and discover Idaho’s famous “Deja Moo.” New Idaho artifacts will be on display, such as the amazing collection of textiles ranging from Idaho’s territorial times to the present. Visitors will be able to actually experience one of these artifacts with concerts performed on the Cartee Piano in the new Community Room.
These changes will truly transform our State Historical Museum and make it a spectacular showcase for all of Idaho. As we move forward with our fundraising campaign, we invite you to join us in making this a reality and hope that you will take time to learn more about this exciting project at foundationforidahohistory.org. Please plan to join us in December of 2017 for the reopening. It’s been an inspiring two years seeing this vision become a reality, and I’m excited to finally be able to share this exciting news with the rest of Idaho.
Dixie Grant is a lifelong native of Idaho, a local philanthropist and a member of the Foundation for Idaho History Board of Directors.