IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Idaho State Historical Society is currently open to the public. Click here for more information.
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Events

The Idaho State Historical Society offers a variety of virtual and in-person programs that tie Idaho’s rich history into current events. Idaho State Historical Society Members can receive exclusive discounts and offers on select programs and events throughout the year. Not a member yet? Sign up today to start taking advantage of discounts, early event registration, and other exclusive benefits!

Interested in being the first to know about new events and offers? Sign up for the Idaho State Historical Society’s monthly e-newsletter! 

Upcoming Events & Programs

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Annual/Recurring Events & Programs

The Idaho State Historical Society serves over 110,000 people each year through educational programs, inspiring exhibitions, fun events, genealogy and family history, research use, and technical assistance. Annually, over 15,000 school-aged children benefit from ISHS programs and visits.

Important information regarding youth programming:

Recommendations for youth programs including K-12 field trips (guided and self-guided), school programs, afterschool programs, and camps until the end of August 2021 – unless CDC revises current recommendations: 

  • Require youth, youth program staff, and youth program visitors to use well-fitting masks with proper filtration consistently and correctly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets.
  • In addition, all people in the facility (i.e., visitor services staff, collections staff, janitorial, etc.) should wear masks at all times with exceptions for certain people, or for certain settings or activities, such as while eating and drinking or swimming. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/summer-camps.html#anchor_1619121317967)
      • Masks should not be placed on:
        • Anyone younger than 2 years old
        • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
        • Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without help
  • Social distancing will be promoted. Co-mingling of different schools will be avoided to the best of our abilities. 
  • Hand sanitation and hand washing will be encouraged, and opportunities provided to do so. 
  • Capacity for camps will be limited to a controllable size (50%).  Field trips will be maintained at a 30-student maximum indoors, 50-student maximum outdoors.

May 1, 2021 (9 pm-2 am) | Ages 18+.  One of the site’s most popular programs, these events benefit Old Idaho Penitentiary education programs and operations. Be sure to grab your tickets soon!

Purchase Tickets Now!

Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with prisoners and guards of the past.


The Old Idaho Penitentiary is considered one of the most haunted destinations in Idaho, and has been featured on television shows such as Ghost Adventures, The Lowe Files, Haunted Towns and Destination Fear.

Individual tickets are $35 each. Participants must be at least 18 years old (Photo ID Required). Arrive at 9:00pm, Doors open at 9:15 pm.

May 7, 2021 (9 pm-2 am) | Ages 18+. One of the site’s most popular programs, these events benefit Old Idaho Penitentiary education programs and operations.

Purchase Tickets Now!

Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with prisoners and guards of the past. Arrive at 9 pm, Doors open at 9 pm.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is considered one of the most haunted destinations in Idaho, and has been featured on television shows such as Ghost Adventures, The Lowe Files, Haunted Towns and Destination Fear.
Individual tickets are $35 each. Participants must be at least 18 years old (Photo ID Required).

October 23, 2021 (9 pm-2 am). One of our most popular programs, these events benefit Old Idaho Penitentiary education programs and operations.

Ticket sales begin Monday, September 6 at 10:00am.

FREE for Idaho State Historical Society Members! Pre-sale for ISHS Members begins Tuesday, August 31 at 10:00am.

Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with prisoners and guards of the past. Arrive at 9:00pm, Doors open at 9:15pm.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is considered one of the most haunted destinations in Idaho, and has been featured on television shows such as Ghost Adventures, The Lowe Files, Haunted Towns and Destination Fear.
Individual tickets are $35 each. Participants must be at least 18 years old (Photo ID Required).

May 20, 2021. “Captivating Conversations” is a new lecture series, hosted by the Old Idaho Penitentiary and featuring a variety of guest speakers and topics ranging from the history of the Idaho State Penitentiary to the issues facing correctional institutions today

May 30, 2021 (12 pm-5 pm). Enjoy a summer Sunday at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in celebration of Dennis the Cat, the Old Idaho Penitentiary’s historic animal mascot. Join staff for Prison Pets presentations (free with your pet food donations for Simply Cats and the Idaho Humane Society), limited edition Dennis merchandise, food trucks, a Prison Paws scavenger hunt, and more!

Tickets and More Information Here!

Between 1952 and 1968, Dennis lived among the staff and residents of the Idaho State Penitentiary, becoming one of the site’s best liked and most respected figures. Upon Dennis’ death in 1968, the prison population buried him nearby within the main yard, fashioning a durable engraved headstone marking his resting place during his funeral services. Today, guests of the Old Idaho Penitentiary regularly pay their respects at his stone, the only marked grave within the prison walls.

June 12, 2021 (6 pm-10 pm, last admission 9 pm). Come celebrate redheads and red fun at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Show off your red hair or just celebrate ginger fun with friends! Complete our ginger-fied scavenger hunt, play family friendly games, listen to music and enjoy food, beer and wine. There will be special Best Ginger contests for adults and kids, and random participation prizes will be given out all night, and a grand prize scavenger hunt winner will be drawn after the event.

Ticket sales begin Tuesday, May 11 at 10 am.

June 21-July 14, 2021 (Mondays and Wednesdays, 7 am-8 am). The yard is calling you… Enjoy the morning sunshine against the sandstone walls of the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, as we present Yoga in the Yard! Eight sessions are available at $10 per session or $64 for all eight! Previous yoga experience is suggested, but all levels are welcome (18+ only). This is a small, intimate experience, limited to 15 people per session (spaced properly for social distancing and the safety and comfort of our guests), with instructor Josie Kunzman.

Guests must bring their own equipment, and a water bottle!

Ticket sales begin Tuesday, May 18 at 10 am.

Postponed for 2021. Stay tuned for 2022 Dates. Due to popular demand and at long last, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is offering guests a chance to stay overnight! Sleepless in Stripes is a simulated prison experience, beginning with check-in, mugshots and even a souvenir “uniform” shirt! Guests will have chowtime in the yard and inmate “rec” time activities, a ghost tour of the site with Behind the Scenes exploration, and an overnight stay in our historic cell houses.

This is an 18+ only experience. Photo ID is required at the door.

October 29-30, 2021. We invite you to tour the site at night and dare to enter the only haunted cell house in Boise! The event also features special performances of the zombie “Thriller” dance, from Thrill the World, costume contests with cash prizes, actors portraying inmates of the past, our undertaker and historic hearse, music, presentations, games, prizes, palm readers, scavenger hunt, food trucks, coffee and hot cocoa, and alcohol available for purchase.

Ticket pricing information coming soon! Ticket sales begin Monday, September 6 at 10:00am. Pre-sale for ISHS Members begins Tuesday, August 31 at 10:00am. This event sells out every year!

More information at our Frightened Felons page.

November 12 and 19 (6 pm-10 pm, last admission 9:00pm). Old Pen staff and volunteers will be providing site tours at 6:30/7:30/8:30 (limited capacity/first come first served), or you are welcome to do a self-guided tour and explore the Old Pen on your own!

Ticket sales begin Tuesday, October 12 at 10 am.

Bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. This event is open to guests 13 and older due to mature content and site safety hazards.

December 14, 2021 (12 pm-5:00 pm, last admission 4 pm). Saturday, December 14 marks the 45th anniversary of the Old Idaho Penitentiary being open to the public as a historic site and museum! $1 admission! Tickets available at the door.

Join a guided tour, or explore the site on your own. Guided tours at 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 (limited capacity each). Warm up near bonfire barrels for fireside chats with Old Idaho Penitentiary experts.

The prison first housed inmates in 1872 when it served the Idaho Territory. It became the Idaho State Penitentiary after Idaho’s statehood in 1890. 13,000 inmates called the penitentiary home at one time or another, including over 200 women, and inmates as young as ten and eleven years old. Today their stories are told through a wide variety of special exhibits and preserved cell house structures that allow guests to experience a taste of mid-century life as an inmate. The site also includes the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, a world class collection of historic arms and armament dating back to the Bronze Age and featuring brand new exhibits on the war efforts of Idahoans during World War I.

February 14, 2022 (12 pm-9 pm, last admission 8 pm). Looking for something other than roses or chocolates this Valentine’s Day? The Old Idaho Penitentiary is offering a unique alternative to your typical V-Day dates. Stroll through the site, snuggle up with your Valentine and find the true meaning of “ball and chain,” with special exhibits on love stories and love letters from the Idaho State Penitentiary.

Admission includes our Valentine’s Day “Partners in Crime” scavenger hunt, featuring unique looks into the site’s historic residents and what they loved – love of money, love of power, or commitment to those they loved.

The site will be open for self-guided tours in all publicly accessible buildings. Dress warm and bring a flashlight!

March 20-26, 2021. Experience a unique tour of the Idaho State Penitentiary and its rarely seen prison cemetery. Unlock the mysteries of the dead with us as guides explore where incarcerated individuals died, what their final moments were like, and where they are laid to rest. Discover why more than half the cemetery is riddled with “Unknown” markers (or often no markers at all) and why some names cannot be found in any prison register.

Purchase Tickets

Your Cemetery Tour ticket also entitles you to a self-guided tour of the prison the day of your visit and the information booklet, “Buried Secrets: Inmates of the Idaho State Penitentiary Cemetery.” Cemetery Tour tickets include admission to the Old Idaho Penitentiary site and exhibits, including our newest exhibit, Disturbing Justice (a graphic novel retelling of the ISP’s riots and disturbances).

This event is FREE for Idaho State Historical Society Members! The Old Idaho Penitentiary is open extended spring break hours March 20-26, 2021 (12:00pm to 7:00pm daily, last admission 6:00pm).

Cemetery Tours: 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 5:00 and 6:00 daily. $16 admission. Limited to only 15 spots per tour to ensure the safety and best experience of all guests.

“Dark Side” Presentations: 4:00pm daily. $10 admission. Presentations in our auditorium featuring a virtual tour of the cemetery and darker stories, for those desiring a more accessible and socially distanced experience (does not include physical tour of the cemetery).

NOTE:
– Guests must be 18 or older to attend Cemetery Tours or Dark Side presentations unless accompanied by an adult. Recommended for ages 13+ due to graphic content.
– Tickets must be purchased online before arriving for Cemetery Tours, Dark Side presentations, and regular admission.

Old Idaho Penitentiary

The Old Idaho Penitentiary opened its doors in 1872 to some of the West’s most desperate criminals. Today, visitors can experience over 100 years of Idaho’s unique prison history with a visit to Solitary Confinement, cell blocks, and the Gallows. The site features thirty historic buildings and special exhibits including the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, a collection of historic weaponry. Events and programs provide families, school groups, and visitors an opportunity to relive the Old Pen’s exciting past of daring escapes, scandals and executions.

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Camps at the Idaho State Museum bring history to life through activities, games, and hands-on learning opportunities. Campers explore the Museum exhibits and beyond to learn about the people, places, and animals that make Idaho great! Camps are offered during fall, spring, and summer breaks for students in grades K-8.

Family Second Saturdays will take place on the second Saturday of each month. Families are encouraged to drop in any time to create and learn together through these hands-on activities.

 

All ages welcome! Free with Museum admission.

Since the early 1890’s, Hispanic Idahoans have helped build the Gem State into what it is today. Latinos continue to play an integral role in the state’s success; contributing to the economy, enriching the state’s culture, and strengthening community.

Día de Muertos is a Hispanic holiday that blends indigenous Aztec rituals and Catholic practices. This holiday acknowledges and celebrates the deceased with what they enjoyed in life, from food to hobbies to personal effects. Some modern traditions include coming together to build altars with calaveras (or skulls), cempasuchitl (or marigolds), and favorite foods of the deceased.

To learn more about upcoming Día de Muertos events, the history of the holiday, or to hear from some of the Hispanic community in Idaho, visit the Idaho State Museum’s social media pages for up-to-date information.  

Maureen O’Hara was an incredible, versatile actress who called Idaho home at the end of her life. Born in Ireland, this famed movie star had such vibrant red hair and green eyes that Herbert Kalmus, the inventor of Technicolor, utilized O’Hara to promote his invention. O’Hara gracefully moved from period adventures to comedies and dramas, like “Miracle on 34th Street.” In 2015, O’Hara passed away at the age of 95 in her Boise home; her legacy on and off the silver screen lives on today.

Come to the Idaho State Museum to get an exclusive look at the Museum’s Maureen O’Hara collection, featuring items spanning her career, and enjoy a showing of her classic holiday film, “Miracle on 34th Street.” 

 

Learn more about this movie showing and pop-up exhibit on the Idaho State Museum’s social media pages. 

History Happy Hour is a virtual event hosted through Zoom that brings community members and the Museum together to talk history, tradition, preservation, and more! From a concert on the Cartee Weber grand piano to a new book launch and discussion about Idaho’s Prison for Women, each experience offers a rare opportunity with experts in their fields offering historic insights and perspectives. Look forward to topics like clothing and self-expression, archival preservation, and how women have shaped the landscape of Idaho. These interactive virtual experiences also include an audience Q&A throughout the Happy Hour.

 

While History Happy Hour is free to attend, space is limited to 100 registrants. Recordings from the event are shared on the Idaho State Museum’s Facebook and YouTube pages after the live event. Events range from 30 minutes to 1 hour and cover a variety of topics with industry leaders, experts, and professionals. 

Nuestras Voces, a monthly virtual Spanish-speaking program, discusses a variety of topics from past to present around Idaho. Moderated and facilitated by Idaho State Museum’s Spanish-speaking staff, meet a variety of community members from different cultures talking about contemporary challenges, historical perspectives, or light-hearted stories from across Idaho.

Make sure to pick up a tasty beverage from our partners, Bitner Vineyard, beforehand. (PS- check out this link about their winery and scholarship fund for Hispanic/Latino students at the College of Idaho: https://www.bitnervineyards.com/vineyards)

Find out about upcoming Nuestras Voces events by following the Idaho State Museum’s social media pages. Recordings of each event are posted after the live event on the Idaho State Museum Facebook page and YouTube channel. This is a complementary program; space is limited to the first 100 registrants per event. Programming is presented in Spanish.

 

Events range from 30 minutes to 1 hour and cover a variety of topics with industry leaders, experts, and professionals.

Enjoy free admission at the Idaho State Museum every first Thursday from 5pm – 8pm. Registrants may drop in any time after 5pm. Last admission is 7:15pm. Limited capacity; registered visitors only will be allowed into the Museum. 

Idaho State Museum

The Idaho State Museum features over 80,000 square feet of exhibit space with over 500 artifacts combined with immersive, innovative technology to tell the story of Idaho. From the lakes and forests of the north down to the deserts and canyons of the south, visitors can explore each space and understand the important relationship between Idaho’s land and its people and how they have shaped, and continue to shape each other over time.

The Museum’s two rotating galleries, Syringa and Treasures, provide spaces to expand on themes within the exhibits by highlighting additional artifacts from the collection and sourcing national exhibits for display.

See below for descriptions of each exhibit and current exhibits featured in the temporary gallery spaces.

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This legacy program of the Territorial Sesquicentennial commemorates Idaho’s past, present, and future. Idaho Day is celebrated on the anniversary of the day President Abraham Lincoln created Idaho Territory in 1863.

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This year, the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) is celebrating 140 years of serving Idahoans and protecting Idaho’s historical places, artifacts, and stories. To commemorate this anniversary, we are honoring the dedicated, passionate, Idaho organizations and citizens that care for, educate, and tell the story of Idaho and their community. Idaho stories are found in many forms and places, including museums, historical societies, archives, sites, structures, highway markers, artifacts, and more.

The Esto Perpetua Award takes its name from the state’s motto, “let it be perpetual” and for the past 22 years, the Idaho State Historical Society has recognized people and organizations who have preserved and promoted Idaho’s history through professional accomplishments, public service or volunteerism, and philanthropy.

Since the award was created in 1999, ISHS has recognized the inspiring local preservation efforts of more than 160 individuals and organizations throughout the state of Idaho. The work of an Esto Perpetua award reflects a lifetime of achievement and their commitment to and passion for Idaho and its history.

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National History Day in Idaho (NHD) is a year-long student-led academic program focused on historical research, interpretation, and creative expression for 4th-12th grade students across Idaho. By participating in NHD, students become writers, filmmakers, web designers, playwrights and artists as they create unique contemporary expressions of history. The experience culminates in a series of competitions at the local and state levels and an annual national contest in June.

Students who participate in NHD build skills that are key to success in college, career, and citizenship.  NHD teaches critical thinking, writing, and research skills. They learn to speak publicly, collaborate with team members, communicate ideas effectively with diverse audiences, manage their time, and persevere through challenges.

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Idaho State Historical Society

The Idaho State Historical Society is an extraordinary system of cultural and historic resources whose mission is to preserve and promote Idaho’s history. The Idaho State Historical Society is a trusted guide through our state’s history, offering programs that essential to the state on all levels. Committed to its statewide leadership role, the Idaho State Historical Society actively engages communities throughout Idaho to share information about Idaho’s history and build history literacy.

The Idaho State Historical Society serves over 110,000 people each year through educational programs, inspiring exhibitions, fun events, genealogy and family history, research use, and technical assistance. Annually, over 15,000 school-aged children benefit from ISHS programs and visits.

CONTACT US

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