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Become a Volunteer

ISM Staff at a Booth in the Boise Zoo

The Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) volunteer program is committed to preserving and promoting Idaho’s history. Volunteers tell Idaho’s story through various fun and educational volunteer opportunities at the Idaho State Museum and Old Idaho Penitentiary. Vital to our mission of preserving and promoting Idaho history, volunteers provide personalized, engaging experiences to the public that allow them to better understand our great state.

Steps to becoming an ISHS volunteer:

  1. Complete the volunteer application below (you will be contacted by the Membership and Volunteer Coordinator)
  2. Attend a one-hour agency orientation
  3. Attend training for your specific volunteer job role(s)

Volunteer Benefits

  • Opportunities to share Idaho’s story with our communities
  • Access to educational materials on Idaho history
  • Ongoing training and learning opportunities related to Idaho history
  • 15% off site store purchases
  • Job references upon request
  • Social opportunities with other volunteers

Resume Building Skills

  • Customer service
  • Public speaking
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Relationship building
  • Time management

Volunteer Opportunities

Monday-Saturday between 10 am-5 pm & Sunday between 12 pm-5 pm.

Shifts dependent on visitation, program, event, and outreach schedules.

Extra shifts may be opened for holidays and special events (i.e. First Thursday).

Museum Ambassadors will be stationed throughout the Museum during field trip program days, special events, and times of peak visitation. They will also represent the Museum at outreach booths in the community. After their initial training session, Museum Ambassadors will greet visitors, answer questions regarding the Museum, provide orientation to visitors, help facilitate hands-on learning activities, and perform light cleaning of the exhibition areas, as necessary. They will also promote safe and engaging experiences for visitors as they explore the Museum’s Exhibits. These volunteers also reinforce behavioral expectations in the galleries during open hours.

What are we looking for?

  • Enthusiasm for working with a wide range of visitors to the museum from diverse backgrounds
  • A growth mindset and a willingness to learn and teach new things
  • Good customer service and communication skills
  • Love of public speaking
  • The ability to complete tasks independently and as a part of a team
  • Ability to stand on your feet for up to 3 hours
  • A love for Idaho and its history! Volunteers will …
  • Complete initial training and attend ongoing development sessions
  • Greet visitors and answer questions regarding the Museum
  • Facilitate the History in Hand Cart which provides object-based learning opportunities from artifacts in the education collection
  • Provide basic orientation to visitors
  • Become familiar with the exhibitions throughout the Museum.
  • Coordinate with Visitor Services staff to perform light cleaning of exhibitions as necessary
  • Watch over the galleries and exhibits to make sure interactives are working properly and visitors are aware of Museum rules

Tuesday-Friday between 9 am-4 pm.

Extra shifts may be opened on Mondays and for special events.

Education Volunteers will support engaging programs for Preschool-12th grade audiences through object based-inquiry. With training in the subject matter, Education Volunteers bring the museum to life for school groups, connecting themes and concepts learned in the classroom to content in the Museum. These volunteers also reinforce behavioral expectations in the galleries during self-guided visits.

What are we looking for?

  • Enthusiasm for working with children from diverse backgrounds
  • A growth mindset and a willingness to learn and teach new things
  • Experience working with youth (teaching, coaching, mentor)
  • Good customer service and communication skills
  • The ability to complete tasks independently and as a part of a team
  • Ability to stand on your feet for up to 3 hours
  • A love for Idaho and its history

Volunteers will…

  • Complete initial training and attend ongoing development sessions that will include resources and information on Museum content, how to encourage and promote learning in the Museum and how to facilitate hands-on, object-based discovery
  • Deliver engaging hands-on experiences at our “History in Hand” cart in the Museum with groups of school children
  • Answer questions regarding the Exhibits and Museum
  • Assist children with classroom based hands-on workshop activities
  • Reinforce behavioral expectations in the Museum during tours and self-guided times

Tours given on Saturdays at 1 pm and 3 pm and on First Thursdays at 5:30 pm & 6:30 pm.

Extra shifts may be opened as groups schedule tours in advance.

Tour Guides will deliver guided interpretive tours to groups of museum visitors. Tours will include an overview of Idaho’s history, an introduction to the main galleries, and highlight various parts of the permanent exhibit. With training on how to give interpretive guided tours, tour guides will emphasize audience interaction on the tours to facilitate group conversations about the exhibits, Idaho’s history, and the visitors’ connections to them.

What are we looking for?

  • Enthusiasm for working with a wide range of visitors to the museum from diverse backgrounds
  • A growth mindset and a willingness to learn and teach new things
  • Good customer service and communication skills
  • Willingness to lead tours and speak in front of groups
  • Ability to complete tasks independently and as a part of a team
  • Ability to stand on your feet for up to three hours
  • Knowledge of or willingness to learn about Idaho history
  • A love for Idaho and its history!

Volunteers will…

Complete initial training and attend ongoing development sessions that will include resources and information on Museum content, how to encourage and promote learning in the Museum and how to facilitate audience discussion on tours

  • Deliver thematic, discussion-based tours in the Museum with groups of visitors
  • Answer questions regarding exhibits, Idaho history, and the Idaho State Museum
  • Become familiar with exhibitions throughout the Museum

Guided tours and indoor history presentations are offered seven days a week, with times and frequency varying depending upon the season. Guided tours are typically around an hour and fifteen minutes in length. In spring months, the Old Idaho Penitentiary hosts over 100 school groups visiting the site for guided tours during field trips. Tour guides and presenters are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and respectful regarding the difficult history of the Idaho State Penitentiary and those affected by it, including victims and descendants.


Primary Duties:

  • Represent the Idaho State Historical Society and its standards for excellent customer service
  • Teach visitors about the history of the site
  • Demonstrate to visitors how to be good stewards of history

Exhibit hosts represent specific exhibits within the site, including the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Weapons Exhibit and the Shirt Factory Building. Exhibit hosts are stationed to answer visitor questions, supervise interactive components of exhibits, and encourage positive interaction with site exhibits and displays.

Primary Duties:

  • Represent the Idaho State Historical Society and its standards for excellent customer service
  • Answer visitor questions as they visit and interact with specific exhibits
  • Keep exhibits, artifacts, and equipment safe from misuse, ensuring against rule violations
  • Demonstrate and supervise use of interactive exhibits
  • Assist staff with special projects as needed

Whenever possible, especially during busier days and seasons, volunteers and staff conduct rounds of site patrol to answer visitor questions and ensure that site rules are being enforced.

Primary Duties:

  • Represent the Idaho State Historical Society and its standards for excellent customer service
  • Monitor the site for rule enforcement
  • Answer visitor questions
  • Orient visitors to the site
  • Assist staff when needed (helping in gift shop, cleaning up trash, etc.)

The Old Idaho Penitentiary hosts special events on-site throughout the year, including Paranormal Investigations, the Captivating Conversations lecture series, the 32 Cells art show, 13 Stories film competition and festival, special Halloween events, and more. Many staff and volunteers are required for the success of these events, with positions including Exhibit Hosts, Site Hosts, Tour Guides and Presenters, Site Patrol, and special positions depending upon the event, including Information Booth Hosts, Scavenger Hunt Guides, Technical Assistance, Actors, Game Hosts, and more.


Volunteers are often recruited for specific special events. Regularly scheduled volunteers will be given the opportunity to work during special events whenever possible.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary maintains a historic rose garden within the grounds. Each year volunteers with knowledge and experience with rose trimming and pruning are needed to maintain the gardens. Experience preferred, but basic training will be provided. Seasonal March through October and dependent upon weather. Volunteers are welcome to give as much time as they can toward improving the gardens!

Represent the Idaho State Historical Society membership and volunteer programs at public events, including distributing information, answering questions, and sharing your experience volunteering.

ISHS Volunteer Policy

Confidentiality Agreement  |  The volunteer agrees that s/he will not, at any time during or after his/her volunteer tenure with the ISHS disclose any confidential or proprietary information to any person, other than those persons properly authorized. Additionally, the volunteer agrees that s/he will not permit any person, other than those authorized, to make copies of any reports or documents that were either prepared by the volunteer during his/her tenure with ISHS or which came into his/her possession during his/her tenure with ISHS. The volunteer recognizes that the disclosure of such information may be harmful to ISHS, and the volunteer agrees that such disclosure is cause for immediate dismissal.

The volunteer agrees that s/he will, at all times, comply with all security guidelines that may be in effect for the protection of ISHS or any department of ISHS relating to the maintenance of files, documents and/or records.

Photo Release  |   ISHS has my permission to take and use my photograph on any type of Volunteer or ISHS related printed, electronic, and/or published materials without compensation to me.

ISHS Ethics  |   ISHS is a state agency and system of cultural and historic resources comprised of the Idaho State Museum, State Archives, State Records Center, State Historic Preservation Office, Old Idaho Penitentiary and Historic Sites Program.

ISHS is dedicated to upholding the highest ethical standards with the greatest attention to professionalism, promoting responsible government, and excellent customer focus. All ISHS staff, including volunteers and interns, must abide by these standards.

As a volunteer please note the following:

  • Volunteers should not work for personal gains other than the gratification and enrichment that result from participating in ISHS programming.
  • ISHS may accord benefits for volunteers, volunteers should not accept gifts, favors, loans, other dispensation, or things of value that accrue to them from other parties in connection with carrying out duties for ISHS.
  • Should the performance behavior of a volunteer in any fashion be deemed unacceptable, it is the prerogative of ISHS to ask that individual to relinquish their volunteer status and/or membership.
  • Volunteers are key to projects and special events, if a volunteer is unable to follow through on a commitment to volunteer, please call the person in charge at least 48 hours in advance (if possible) so that a substitute may be found. Please understand that if three shifts are missed without notice, that individual will be asked to relinquish their volunteer status.
  • Volunteers must hold matters of program function and administration confidential. Volunteers who have access to ISHS collections, research, and staff activities must respect the confidentiality of their positions, as well as the significance and integrity of the collections.
  • Volunteers treat all people with dignity and respect. Open to ages, races, sizes, faiths, abilities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, and economic and cultural backgrounds.
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