About the Idaho State Historical Museum Collections
Chinese bound-foot slipper.
Photo Credit: Acc. #514-A
The Idaho State Historical Museum provides collections management for the State of Idaho’s 250,000 objects, including activities such as cataloging, photo documentation, preservation, in-coming and outgoing loans to organizations throughout the state, and environmentally-controlled storage. Our signature collections include:
- Arms and armament, featuring objects from the Bronze Age to today including medieval arms and armor, Revolutionary War firearms and swords, Civil War artifacts, an 1883 Gatling gun on its original carriage used on the Western frontier and WW I and II rifles, pistols, machine guns, mortars, and cannon. The arms and armament collection is on display at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in the world class J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit.
- Agricultural items, including a thresher used in a northern Idaho dry land farming operation, saddles from Idaho makers throughout the state, and sheep shearing equipment.
- Clothing and textile artifacts, including First Lady inaugural gowns, quilts representing many eras and patterns, military uniforms from the Civil War through today, and the stage costume belonging to Paul Revere of “Paul Revere and the Raiders” in the 1960s.
- Artifacts representing aspects of home life, including food service, preparation and processing, cleaning, furnishings and the dishware used by Governor Shoup and his wife.
- Tools and equipment representing many Idaho industries including a hydraulic giant from Idaho City, a hard rock drill from the Yellow Jacket Mine in Lemhi County, an iron lung used by a Boise hospital to fight polio, an autoclave used in the Japanese internment camp at Minidoka, and a Fresno scraper from Morrison Knudsen Company.
- Transportation artifacts and objects used on land, air, rail, and water, including a southwest Idaho stagecoach, the “Gospel Coach” used by a traveling preacher and his family, and the Leata, a car developed in Post Falls, Idaho during the 1970s to save on fuel consumption.
- Recreational artifacts, including toys, sporting and outdoor equipment, and games. Skis, polo equipment and Miss Nara, Idaho’s Japanese Friendship doll are included in the collection.
- Artifacts representing Chinese immigrants that settled in Idaho, including one of the largest apothecary collections outside of China with prescriptions, recipes, objects, and ingredients from the Ah Fong family, local herb doctors from the late 1800s through the 1960s.
- Native American artifacts.
- Historic Idaho license plates from every decade since the state began using them in 1913.
- Special, signature artifacts include a set of Territorial Governors portraits, works created by Emma Edwards Green, designer of Idaho’s State Seal, and the Jefferson Peace medal.
Donate to Museum Collections
The Idaho State Historical Museum closed for renovations on August 4, 2014. Our staff is currently moving and preparing museum artifacts for our upcoming renovation and expansion. During this initial phase, we are unable to accept new donations, accommodate research requests, or process new loan requests. We plan to resume normal collections activities in the winter of 2014. If you have a potential donation, would like to research the collections, or request an artifact loan, please check this website for updates later in the year. Thank you for your understanding and patience during this exciting time.
Researching the Museum Collections
Museum collection artifacts are available for scholarly study by researchers or for loan to other institutions. Access to the collection depends upon a number of things including available space, facilities, staff, donor restrictions, and material stability. Special fees may apply. Contact (208) 334-2120 or
e-mail for research information.