Whether or not guests know much about the history and culture of the Basque people, the museum offers a stimulating and educational look at a people that are not often well known. A trip to the museum always provided something new, whether that is an artifact or a new perspective. Established in 1985, the Basque museum was originally just a small building located in the historic boardinghouse on Grove Street in Boise, Idaho.
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It has since grown immensely and moved locations to allow for the expansion of the many artifacts and exhibits found inside. The museum is supported by the local community, as well as the Basque community as a whole and the city of Boise. The mission of the museum is to promote, preserve, and perpetuate the history and culture of the Basque people and offers a comprehensive historical archive full of oral history, library documents, manuscripts, and artifacts to further this goal and raise awareness. It is currently one of the best museums of its kind in the United States.
History of the Basques - A quick overview of Basque history, including photographs that span both historic and modern times and other artifacts celebrating some of the most important parts of the culture.
Jacobs Home - The home that operated as a boardinghouse for Basques (essentially a second home for people who were emigrating from Basque for job opportunities, as well as acting as a social center helping to preserve the culture - food, dance, music, games, and, most importantly, Euskara - their native language) from 1910 until 1969 was originally owned by Cyrus Jacobs and is open for tours. The very first home renters were the Galdos, then the Bicandi, and finally the Uberuaga families. The Uberuaga family eventually bought the house for $2,000 in 1928, and raised their three children there (Joe, Julia, and Serafina). There was even a book written about this boardinghouse and others, called Home Away from Home, by Jeronima Echevveria, MD.
Sheepherders - One of the jobs that the Basque people found the most success with in the states was sheepherding. This exhibit allows visitors to take a look inside a sheep wagon, where the Basque sheepherders would spend months at a time. Also check out the sheep tents, the living quarters of these mostly men. View photos, artifacts, and arborglyphs (tree trunks that have been carved) from the time period.
Dantzak - One of the ways that the Basque culture is being preserved in the US is through dance. Dantzak (Basque dancing) is featured in this exhibit, through costumes, photos, and an interactive section discussed the differences in dantzak between regions. It also catalogs the many dance troupes practicing this style of dance throughout the country as well.
Ostatauk - Another exhibit featuring the history of boardinghouses in the US, this section is filled with photos that have been sent in from families all across the country. The houses are separated by state, it is constantly evolving and updating and has grown far beyond the museum’s expectations. Visitors should check out the map to see if any were located near where they live. There are also many pictures of some of the residents of these Ostatauk boardinghouses.
The museum welcomes and encourages school group field trips, as this is an amazing way to educate children about the important history of the Basque people. Reservations are required at least two weeks in advance by calling the museum and asking to speak with the education specialist. Make sure to have an estimate of the number of students expected to the museum can make sure to accommodate. At least one chaperone is required per tour, but make sure to have enough adults to help manage the student’s behavior (as a reminder: yelling, running, and touching artifacts is strictly prohibited). Tours generally last from one to two hours in length, which include the museum, the boardinghouse, the handball court, and the Block. Hands on activities can be added, if requested ahead of time. Tours are offered Tuesdays through Fridays from 10am to 4pm, and Saturdays from 11am to 3pm. Group rates apply.
The shop at the museum offers a wide variety of souvenir and gift options for every budget and age range. From Basque specific items (abarkak, etc) as well as apparel (bibs for babies, t-shirts, hats) and jewelry, the shop provides visitors with a great way to remember their visit and celebrate the Basque culture.
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center, 611 Grove Street, Boise, ID, 83702, Phone: 208-343-2671