The Idaho State Archives (ISA), a division of the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS), in partnership with the University of Utah, J. Willard Marriott Library, has completed a multi-year initiative to conserve Idaho’s most important document – the State Constitution. This original document was created in 1890 when Idaho became the 43rd state.
A successful fundraising campaign in 2018 by ISHS and the Foundation for Idaho History funded the conservation project. It began with a formal assessment, which was completed on the 130-year old document to determine the scope of work for the project.
It was determined to be a critical time to invest in conservation efforts for the document in order to preserve it for future generations. The 130-year-old constitution had several issues to address: the animal-glue adhesive binding had failed and most of the text block had detached from the spine; an outdated lamination treatment had been applied to the first two pages and caused warping, distortions, and red ink to bleed due to humidity; and grime and tears appeared on pages throughout the text block.
On October 12, 2019, Governor Brad Little and First Lady Teresa Little and ISHS staff safely transported the Constitution from Idaho to Utah, where it was welcomed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
This marked the first documented instance where Idaho’s Constitution has left the state, which posed interesting obstacles for conservators.
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History of the Idaho State Constitution
Idaho’s Constitution contains 21 articles that act as supreme law for our state. Although it has been amended more than 100 times, it remains basically as it was drafted over 130 years ago. A constitutional convention, with representatives from throughout Idaho Territory, met in Boise between July 4 and August 6, 1889, debating every important topic covered by the Constitution. On October 5, 1889, Governor George Shoup issued a proclamation calling for an election on November 5 to ratify the Constitution. Fred Dubois, Idaho’s territorial delegate to Congress, propelled the admissions bill for Idaho’s statehood, which was passed in the House in April 1890 and the Senate that June. Idaho became the 43rd state on July 3, 1890.
Programming & Events
In addition to the conservation work on the original document, conservationists created a replica of the Constitution to provide access to the document for communities across the state, allowing the original document to be stored in a secure, climate-controlled environment.
The Idaho State Historical Society and Idaho Public Television are partnering with the Idaho Commission for Libraries to create a traveling exhibit that will be on display in libraries across the state in conjunction with a series of documentary screenings and panel discussions with legal scholars, historians, archivists, and others.
Visit the Idaho State Historical Society events page for upcoming constitution programming in your community.