Press Release


Idaho State Historical Society Begins Staged Re-Opening with Unique Food Drive Event at Old Pen


(BOISE)– The Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) is kicking off its approved re-opening process with a four-day food drive to benefit The Idaho Foodbank and a rare opportunity for donors to experience the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

The “Make Hunger History” benefit begins Friday, June 5 and runs through Monday, June 8, and provides an exclusive glimpse into the historic prison in advance of staged public re-openings of other ISHS sites. The Idaho State Museum will host members only hours starting June 8 as part of its re-opening plan, while the Old Pen will re-open to the public on June 13. The Research Center of the Idaho State Archives will re-open with limitations on June 13.

Idahoans interested in taking part in the food drive will have a one-of-a-kind chance to make their donation by driving into the Old Pen’s historic Sally Port, the secure gate on the north side that was built in 1931 to accommodate shipments coming into and out of the prison. Vehicles that meet size restrictions will then be allowed to enter and take a loop through the prison grounds.

“We’re excited about this program for so many reasons, including the fact that Idahoans making donations will have an unprecedented chance to bring their vehicle into the Sally Port and then drive around a portion of the prison grounds,” said Amber Beierle, Historic Sites Administrator for ISHS. “But this collaboration is also exciting because we’re leveraging this experience into Idaho’s past into helping meet the needs today for the many Idahoans who are struggling to feed their families during the pandemic.”

The agency will set up a food and cash donation drop inside the Old Pen. Anyone in a vehicle with at least five cans of food and $5 in cash will be allowed into the Sally Port and then the prison grounds.

Donations of foodstuffs will be directed to St. Vincent de Paul on Overland Rd. in Boise. Cash donations will be given to The Idaho Foodbank and used to help purchase and deliver food. Altogether, 100% of proceeds and donations will go directly to these organizations.

“As Idahoans struggle to meet basic needs, we are grateful to the Idaho State Historical Society for their efforts to raise awareness around hunger. The coronavirus has triggered a rapid increase in the demand for food. Many in our communities are facing hunger for the first time due to the sudden loss of income and school closures,” said Karen Vauk, President and CEO of The Idaho Foodbank. “These donations will go directly to feeding Idahoans in need now and lets them know that their friends and neighbors care.”

Agency officials have established some basic rules for participation and all drivers must acknowledge these expectations and guidelines before entering, Beierle said. Guidelines include:

  • Vehicles should have no more than four occupants, and individuals must adhere to guidelines for social distancing. Vehicle occupants must also be from the same household and not have an illness or in the process of recovering from an illness.
  • Vehicles can be no more than 8-feet wide and 9-feet high to be able to drive through the Sally Port. Vehicles bigger that don’t fit through the port can still drop off donations to staff and volunteers located outside the prison walls.
  • Only a limited number of vehicles will be allowed into the prison grounds at one time, which could mean wait times.
  • Photo opportunities are available, but occupants must stay inside their vehicles at all time unless instructed by staff and volunteers. Buildings within the prison walls will not be open to the public.
  • Drivers must acknowledge that ISHS is not liable for any damage to a vehicle as a result of driving in, around, and onto the site or any state property for the duration of the donation drop off.

The “Make Hunger History” food drive and fundraiser runs Friday, June 5, through Monday, June 8, 10 a.m.  to 5 p.m. daily. The limited re-opening of the Old Pen is the part the agency’s staged re-opening plan approved by Gov. Little.

ISHS sites also plan to offer special hours for seniors and 50 percent reduction in admission for healthcare workers, first responders, and service industry workers. For more information about the ISHS re-openings, visit:



The Idaho State Historical Society is an extraordinary system of cultural and historic resources comprised of the Idaho State Museum, State Archives, State Historic Preservation Office, and Old Idaho Penitentiary and Historic Sites Program. Our vision is to make history essential and accessible through dynamic and gratifying services that inspire, enrich, and engage all Idahoans. Learn more at