Buckskin Bill to Psychiana, a look at the 'Essential Idaho' exhibit

Buckskin Bill to Psychiana, a look at the 'Essential Idaho' exhibit

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 6:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 4:21 PM

BOISE -- We're just a few days short of the 150th anniversary of Idaho becoming a territory. To honor that the State Historical Society is creating "Essential Idaho," a sprawling 3,000 square foot exhibition (its largest ever) telling stories from across Idaho, and featuring the 150 people, places, events, and ideas that helped to bring the state from a frontier territory to the home we know today.

"We have been working on this for a couple years," said Idaho State Historical Museum Director Jody Hawley Ochoa, as she took a break from putting the finishing touches on the the exhibition. "It's a combination of stories, but it's an Idaho story."

It honors the 150 years since Idaho became a territory with 150 things that make the Gem State unique.

"It's got something for everybody," said Ochoa.

It features people from Idaho's Olympians to the earliest settlers.

"Well yeah, there's Borah," said Ochoa, walking through the exhibition talking about the people profiled like they're old friends. "There's Polly... here's Emma. There's Bob Smiley... Silvan Hart was his real name, but he was 'Buckskin Bill.'"

There are also artifacts from a car manufactured in Post Falls, to a book detailing the Deseret alphabet, to Payette's Loving Cup.

"Oh, this is so cool!" exclaimed Ochoa, examining the Cup. "They won the national fruit display contest for many years."

Every county is represented, whether it be with something expected, like industry that propelled the state's economy, or with something you've probably never heard of, like Psychiana. "It's like the world's first mail order religion. It was like really huge, and he was in Moscow," said Ochoa. "50,000 mailings a day."

There are also plenty of hands-on activities, like dressing up as your favorite potato condiment.

One of Ochoa's favorite exhibits is one that honors past historians. "It hits home."

But, she hopes whatever brings people here, that they leave with a better sense of what made this state, and what this state is still made of. "I hope they have a connection too, to some artifact in here. I hope they're able to transcend time and stand in front of something and get that feeling. Because, it's stocked full of incredible artifacts."

It was quite the process to put the '150 things' together. An expert panel whittled down hundreds of nominations from people, tribes, and museums from all over the state. The state historian said that even he learned something when helping with the exhibition.

The 'Essential Idaho' exhibit opens Tuesday at the Idaho State Historical Museum in Julia Davis Park.

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