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Major grant brings Museum of Idaho exhibit one step closer to realization

Idaho Falls

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Adam Forsgren, EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — The Museum of Idaho’s planned “Way Out West” exhibit is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The museum has received a $30,000 grant from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation Inc. This foundation is one of the oldest and largest charitable organizations in Idaho and funds many scholarships as well as a competitive grants program. The foundation has been a long-time partner with the museum, contributing a total of $675,000 towards various exhibits, educational programs and other efforts.

The grant provides some much-needed assistance to supplement the museum’s efforts, museum spokesperson Jeff Carr told EastIdahoNews.com.

“This exhibit is something we are doing ourselves,” Carr said. “Not that we’re doing it in a vacuum, but we are completely leading the effort, doing most of the research ourselves, putting together the artifacts and driving everything here from within the museum.”

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The “Way Out West” exhibit will be large, filling up almost the entire current exhibit space for the foreseeable future.

“Way Out West” will dig into 14,000 years of east Idaho’s environmental, cultural and social history.

“This will be the centerpiece of the museum, the showcase,” said Carr. “We’ll always have traveling exhibits, but we’re the Museum of Idaho, for goodness sake. If you come here, you want to learn something about Idaho.”

The museum will still host traveling exhibits, but they will be set up in the expanded section of the museum.

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Carr said that the museum hadn’t had enough space to host an exhibit of this size and scope before, but that’s only part of the equation.

“Thus far, we have raised, with this grant, $184,000 toward that exhibit through donations, grants and sales of custom engraved bricks for our new front patio,” said Carr. “The more we get, the better the exhibit will be.”

Carr said the museum has applied for many other grants, which is a rigorous process and consumes a lot of time. The job of finding and applying for grants falls to the museum’s director of grants, Kimberly Lee.

“I would say the most important factor when applying for any grant, this includes LMC, is to make sure the project (and expected outcomes) you are seeking to fund aligns with the mission of the funder,” Lee said. “Given that LMC focuses funding for children’s educational programs and underserved populations, it is helpful when I present data on the population we serve; both demographics on the people and communities they come from as well as the total number served by the museum — so data from community surveys, plus data we gather from MOI visitors/participants.”

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“We really open ourselves up,” Carr added. “We cut ourselves open and say ‘Here we are.’ Every aspect of our organization has to look good because they’re going to poke and prod at every little thing.”

The money from this grant will go toward the installation of the “Way Out West” exhibit, visitor evaluation and the development and implementation of the “Way Out West” curriculum guide.

The LMC grant provides needed funding, but the museum is still looking for more donations, corporate sponsorship and grants to make the exhibit the best it can be.

“The easiest way you can donate is just straight on our website,” Carr said. “Most people who donate larger amounts will want to give us a call; then we can talk about things.”

The “Way Out West” exhibit is scheduled to open in summer 2020.

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