With more than 100,000 visitors on a yearly basis (significantly higher than the national average), the Museum of Idaho brings history and science to life in a fun and educational way. Visitors to this museum will find interesting perspectives with a local focus. The mission of the museum is to educate, enlighten and engage adults and children alike by making use of informal educational opportunities, collections, and exhibits that teach the sciences and humanities.
The root of the current museum can be traced back to 1979 and it has grown steadily since then. In fact, in 2003, it tripled in size and reopened under its current name, becoming the largest museum in the entire state of Idaho. It has welcomed over a million guests through its front doors. The museum has plans to double yet again by the year 2019. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, independent organization that keeps its doors open through donors and grants.
The Museum of Idaho prides itself on its wide, diverse variety of exhibitions that stay at the museum on a temporary basis. Featuring everything from Dinosaurs in Motion, Bodies: The Exhibition, and Discover Steampunk, the museum tries to keep itself on top of current knowledge, science, and fun. However, the museum is also home to many different permanent exhibits. The permanent exhibits feature thousands of unique artifacts that tell the complex and interesting story of the different fauna, flora, and other forces that have shaped the native Idaho region.
? Native American History - This interactive exhibit lets guests literally walk through a Native American village that has been designed with the help of members of the local Shoshone and Bannock tribes. View the authentic teepees, different tools, and other unique remnants of the original inhabitants of the Idaho Falls region.
? Eagle Rock, USA - Guests can take a look into a mock one room schoolhouse, as well as ten other businesses. They have been designed with historical accuracy to what they would have looked like in the later part of the 19th century (as a frontier town struggling to define itself).
? Exploration and Migration - This exhibit explores the trek that Lewis and Clark took on the exploration and expedition of the area, as well as more information about some of the other people who helped shape the region.
? Atomic Advances - Guests will learn the history of how Idaho ended up being the very first state that produced usable nuclear energy, as well as how it continues to maintain its status as one of the frontrunners of nuclear technology advancement.
? Andrew Henry Rock - This display focuses on the earliest recorded English writing artifact that was found in Idaho, which dates back to 1810.
? Children’s Discovery Room - Built just for child guests, the Discovery Room was designed as an interactive exhibit that teaches children about natural history and early Idaho settlers through hands-on displays.
The museum is also home to a significant research and archival collection, numbering over 25,000 different artifacts. It continues to seek out and accrue other artifacts as well. One of the most important parts of the archive is the focus on “oral history,” which allows natives (especially those in the older generation) to tell their stories and have them documented for posterity. The archive (specifically the reference and reading room) is open to the general public, however researchers will need to make an appointment to make sure the information they plan to access is available.
Admission is required for access to the museum, although discounts are provided for seniors, youth and students, Idaho residents, active duty military personnel, and family passes. Group discounts are also available. The museum is open Monday and Friday from 10 am to 8 pm, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm.
The museum is very well known for their field trips and educational opportunities for students (hosting roughly three times the amount of field trips as other museums in Idaho). Field trips can be booked online and last for at least an hour. Educators will have access to the large resource database on the website, which allows them to plan ahead for both permanent and temporary/traveling exhibits. Field trips can also be customized for each class, and the education director at the museum is always more than happy to talk directly with teachers to help plan ahead. One chaperone must be provided for every 10 student guests and discounted admission fees are provided. Once tours are booked, staff from the museum will contact teachers with additional information about where to park buses, museum etiquette and guidelines, and to answer any questions prior to a visit.
For teachers who unable to provide their students a trip to the actual museum, there are “discovery trunks” available to check out that allows teachers to bring the museum to the classroom. With a variety of themes including space, adaptations, GPS and compass, conservation, Idaho Falls History, and DIY, teachers can have a full museum, educational experience without having to leave the school. This makes for a great, interactive program for schools who might not be able to afford the field trip.
The museum offers special events that fall into three different categories - those for kids, museum events held after dark, and special events just for museum members. The museum is also available to rent out for other special events like birthday parties. Birthday parties include admission to the museum and a private room, and last for two hours.
Both camps and classes are offered for kids - allowing opportunities for longer and more in-depth adventures (offered mostly during longer school breaks) or smaller, hour long classes (on a variety of topics and designed for all ages) that can also be done with their parents present. All camps and classes have been designed by educators so that they are fun as well as educational and can be reserved by using the museum website.
Also offered are “museum club” events, each with their own special themes. The Museum Club is meant for “engaged” citizens over the age of 55. Each event features discussions lasting between 15 and 30 minutes in length (depending on the theme, which is related to the sciences, humanities, or current affairs) and may occasionally include behind the scenes tours.
Also, during the holidays, the museum features holiday and seasonal events like the “Olde Fashioned Christmas” and “Winter Festivals” exhibits and craft events that happen during December.
Dining and Shopping
There are no official dining options available at the museum, but the museum is located in a busy downtown area with multiple restaurants surrounding the area. There is a small gift shop available at the museum with a selection of products that relate to the exhibitions that can be seen inside. Dinosaur toys, apparel with the museum logo, and smaller gifts like postcards and keychains are up for sale at the museum gift shop. The museum updates their wares regularly, but there is always a souvenir for every budget.
Museum of Idaho, 200 N. Eastern Ave, Idaho Falls, ID, 83402, Phone: 208-522-1400