Montana shared the loss of the 3 million acres that were destroyed more than 100 years ago.
Through a new immersive exhibit in the Idaho State Museum in Boise, people in 2019 can experience just how devastating the Great Fire of 1910 truly was.
“When you actually feel what it must have been like to be in that burn, it really evokes a lot of emotion and it’s very powerful,” said Janet Gallimore, executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society. “That part of the museum just won a national award from the American Alliance of Museums for its impact and for its power and for how it communicates the story in a very different but powerful way.”
Gallimore spoke Friday at the Rotary Club of Coeur d’Alene’s noon meeting at The Coeur d’Alene Resort. She described how the newly updated and upgraded museum has been faring since it re-opened to the public after completion of a $17 million expansion last fall.
“What we were trying to do with our museum is to create impact,” she said. “We had this amazing opportunity to create a new state museum, so we wanted to be sure we were doing it right and doing it purposefully.”
The museum is geographically organized: Lakes and forests from the Salmon River north; mountains and rivers in the central mountainous regions; and deserts and canyons for the southern Snake River plain.
“If visitors want to go right to their own community they can. If they want to start in one and work their way through they can,” Gallimore said. “But there’s an amazing story of Idaho’s three regions as told through the lens of a geographic approach so that everyone in the state sees their community together.”
Numerous interactive and multimedia exhibits give visitors a stronger sense of the relationships between the people, nature and landscapes of the Gem State. In the Origins Theater are the stories of Idaho’s American Indian tribes, tales “which are steeped in connection to the land and the forest and animals, and absolutely beautiful,” Gallimore said.
“Here you learn about the geography of the state, the different ecosystems and we also worked very closely with our five Idaho tribes to be able to integrate their story througout the museum experience,” she said.
According to the 2018 visitor exit survey conducted from October 2018 to January 2019, the museum welcomed visitors from about 30 states and from countries including Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany and Basque Country.
The museum received high grades from those visitors: 90 percent felt they had a clearer understanding of the connections among Idaho’s natural resources and economic development, 95 percent felt the exhibits were a trusted source of education about Idaho’s land water and people and 91 percent felt the Idaho State Museum is essential to promoting Idahoans’ common identity.
“It’s simply a stunning facility,” said Coeur d’Alene Rotary President-elect Luke Russell. “If you get a chance to go to Boise, you need to see it because it brings our history to life.”
Rotary President Kimber Gates said it was great to have Gallimore as a guest speaker to share how things are going with the state museum.
“We love to hear about some of the new investments in our state,” Gates said. “This is just a special new asset. Based in Boise, we don’t see it as often as people down south do, but I know people are investing in it up here and are excited to go visit now that we have this great information about it.”