IDAHO FALLS – The Museum of Idaho’s forthcoming “Way Out West” exhibit took another big step toward completion this week, announcing a 10-year, $500,000 sponsorship from Westmark Credit Union.
The sponsorship was announced in a press conference on Friday morning and is the latest development in a partnership between the museum and Westmark that goes back 15 years. It makes Westmark the presenting sponsor of the exhibit for the next decade.
Both the participating parties expressed enthusiasm about the new sponsorship.
“Along with providing our services, another important part of our mission is to give back to those communities and individuals that support the credit union,” Westmark CEO/President Rich Leonardson said during the press conference. “As I mentioned in the press release, we give back by supporting and sponsoring great events and great organizations like the Museum of Idaho.”
“We’re just so excited to partner with Westmark,” the museum’s Curator Carrie Athay told EastIdahoNews.com. “They’re a wonderful community partner. They really mean a lot to this community and have a really cool history, too, being founded by atomic workers. It was women, actually, who founded Westmark. I think that’s really cool.”
The funds from the sponsorship will go towards the ongoing development and eventual completion of the museum’s “Way Out West” exhibit. Tracking 14,000 years of east Idahoan history, “Way Out West” will study wildlife and environmental changes in the area throughout time.
“Way Out West” also documents the way humans, both ancient and contemporary, have dealt with, adapted to and even had an impact on the climate and landscape of the area. When completed, the exhibit will play a crucial role in fulfilling the museum’s mission of bringing the world to Idaho and Idaho to the world.
“We sit at such a great crossroads,” Athay said. “We have so many visitors who are coming here on their way to other places, you know Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. So we get about 100,000 visitors who come through the museum every year and a lot them are from out-of-state or out-of-country. They come and they want to learn a lot of the stories of Idaho.”
“Way Out West” will serve as a way to tell those Idaho stories and teach not only visitors from other places, but also local residents who are interested in learning the history of their home turf.
“We hope we can help our community to be able to see why these stories are important and why this is a wonderful place,” said Athay. “I talk to a lot of people who are from here, or may be moving back about what it is that draws them back to this area and why they want to be here. We really hope to capture some of those stories so that our community knows who we are. What makes us different. What makes us unique.”
The Westmark sponsorship provides important funding to help the museum develop and do research that contributes to “Way Out West.” As an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the museum receives no money from the city of Idaho Falls or the state of Idaho and relies on various grants, donations, sponsorships, and admission fees to fund its work.
“A lot of people think that we get city and state funding, and we don’t,” Athay explained. “So we really do rely on admissions when people come to visit, and on these partnerships with organizations like Westmark. It really does contribute significantly to us being able to tell these stories, preserve the past and be a place where the community can come to see themselves and relate to this history.”
The museum still needs funding to complete “Way Out West,” as well as provide other programs and services to visitors. Those interested in donating financially are encouraged to contact the museum’s Director of Development, Nick Gailey. Parties interested in donating artifacts or stories and other information should contact Athay.
Those organizations interested in sponsorships should contact the museum’s Director of Marketing, Deborah Chessey.
“Way Out West” is scheduled to open in late 2020 and remain in the museum as a permanent exhibit until at least 2030. To learn more, visit the Museum of Idaho website.