BOISE --You can step inside the life of President Abraham Lincoln, the man who freed the slaves, at the Idaho History Center next week.
In an interesting twist, the period room of the exhibit was almost completely built by offenders with the Idaho Corrections Industries.
Slated to open Tuesday, November 19th, the Lincoln Legacy Collection includes over 1,500 books, letters, photos, publications, paintings, and other objects that illustrate Lincoln's connection to the region, along with his larger political career.
The History Center is located just off Warm Springs Avenue near the Old Penitentiary. Admission is free.
Much of the collection housed here has been kindly donated by former Idaho Attorney General and Lincoln expert David Leroy. That includes a rare lock of hair snipped from Lincoln's head after his assassination.
"Perhaps the one that encapsulates the relationship of Idaho and Lincoln the best is this New York newspaper from one week after Idaho signed the bill creating Idaho Territory," Leroy told KTVB.
Other rare artifacts include various civil-war weaponry, human shackles and a bill of sale for a slave child named Jim.
The exhibition is planned to coincide with the Idaho Territory Sesquicentennial.
Why is Lincoln's connection with the Gem State so significant? Lincoln signed a presidential proclamation creating the Idaho Territory in 1863.
Offenders working with the Idaho Corrections Industries built a replica 1863 presidential cabinet -- from the carpet to the furniture, to the painting of Andrew Jackson -- those serving time created it all.
"We've probably had at least 50 [offenders] involved at some point in this operation," said Marty Thomas, General Manager of the Idaho Corrections Industries.
Thomas says the idea is to help offenders gain life skills, learn teamwork, and contribute to society.
The rest of the exhibition was designed by Catapult 3, Inc., a Boise-based exhibition design company. A variety of subcontractors and other businesses worked to complete the collection.
The Idaho History Center plan to keep the collection on display permanently. Janet Gallimore, Idaho Historical Society Director, hopes the unique exhibit will motivate Idahoans to visit.
"So, they'll be able to explore Abraham Lincoln, his impact on Idaho and the West, but also realize that there are half-a-million photos in the Idaho State Archives, 40,000 maps, and it'll allow the public -- the general public -- much broader access to understanding the materials we have here in Idaho for them," Gallimore said.
For more information, visit the Idaho State Historical Society.