Recently, the Idaho State Historical Society made two exciting announcements: first, the new, highly anticipated Idaho State Museum will open its doors on Oct. 12; second, the Foundation for Idaho History has realized the goal of raising $4 million in private donations. These donations, along with state funds, have made it possible to build a new museum that will truly serve people of all ages, backgrounds and interests — an interactive exhibition experience that helps us understand the forces that shape our story, and who we are today.
Here, at this exciting milestone, it’s inspiring to reflect on what Idaho’s story means for our state. How do the museum’s features — its diverse narrative, beautiful media experiences, hands-on opportunities, and gallery designed especially for children — actually help strengthen this place?
The answer begins with this truth: Despite the ways Idaho has changed, many of the issues we face today are the same Idahoans have always faced. How do we take advantage of our natural resources to create jobs and sustain communities, while also preserving our natural heritage for future generations? How do we welcome new residents to our rapidly growing state while retaining the traditions that make Idaho unique?
By illuminating our history in a way that is engaging, honest, inclusive, and, yes, fun, we will inspire Idahoans of all ages and backgrounds to engage with those ever-present questions. By drawing clear connections between the past and today, we will equip Idahoans with the context to find answers for our time.
The museum shows us that those persistent questions all spring from one, constant source: the relationship between Idaho’s land and its people. It argues that despite change of time, geography, culture, or perspective, we are united by our shared experience living in this vast and beautiful place.
Put simply, the Idaho State Museum reminds us that no matter what happens, how this place changes, where we’ve been or where we go, here, we are all Idahoans.
We owe thanks to more people than we can name here; among them, we offer special thanks to Idaho’s governor, first lady and Legislature; our Board of Trustees; the Foundation for Idaho History, and capital campaign chair Roy Eiguren and vice chair Mary Ann Arnold; our donors; and all those who provided content and feedback for the museum exhibitions.
The new Idaho State Museum builds on a legacy created by the Idaho State Historical Society in 1881, and continues today, driven by so many people who love Idaho, are committed to learning from its history, and who have invested in this essential resource.
We look forward to opening our doors, and hope you’ll join us in counting down the days to Oct. 12, when we will finally be able to say, “Here we are, Idaho.”
Janet L. Gallimore is the executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, a state agency that comprises the Idaho State Museum, Idaho State Archives and State Records Center, State Historic Preservation Office, Old Idaho Penitentiary and Historic Sites program.