Cover or uncover historic Idaho murals?

The public can voice their opinion about the murals at a hearing Wednesday.

BOISE -- Debate on what to do with two controversial murals depicting the history of Idaho begins Wednesday and you have the chance to voice your opinions.

The murals are located inside the old Ada County Courthouse on Jefferson Street in downtown Boise. Some say the paintings are inappropriate and discriminatory against Native Americans, while others say they are part of Idaho history.

The historic murals have lined the halls of the old Ada County Courthouse for more than 70 years. They depict the history of Idaho.

But when the Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center took occupancy of the building in September, a temporary decision was made to cover two of the murals.

Mark Adams, Dean of University of Idaho's College of Law, says the concern was the daily public display of the murals, one of which depicts white settlers lynching a Native American.

"Just a public display of these on a daily basis does not provide any context and actually goes against our educational mission of providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for our students, faculty and staff," said Adams.

However, groups like Preservation Idaho believe the murals should be uncovered, saying on their website, "Idaho's history, embodied by these murals, should be honored, interpreted, and left in place."

Bob Geddes, Director of the Department of Administration, which maintains the state-owned building, will make the ultimate decision based on feedback from the public. The hearing will be held Wednesday.

"I hope to get input from a good cross section of not only the community, but hopefully the state," said Geddes. "The tribes have been interested in these murals for a long time. I'm expecting that they will either have representatives there or have statements that will be read into the meeting record." 

Adams insists they aren't trying to erase history.

"The College of Law and the faculties, we've had extensive discussions about this," said Adams. "We believe the murals should be covered on a daily basis, but they can be displayed in a proper educational context as we've done with other disturbing images."

The murals have been debated before when the Idaho Legislature held its session in the old Ada County Courthouse while the Statehouse was being renovated. Geddes says a compromise was reached then to keep the murals up and uncovered with written explanations underneath the murals.

Geddes says Native Americans were in support of leaving the murals uncovered during the Idaho Legislature.

The public meeting on the historic murals will be held Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Idaho Statehouse in Room WW-55.


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