INTERVIEWS:

Janet Gallimore

Janet Gallimore from the Idaho State Historical Society.

Janet Gallimore is the executive director of the Idaho State Historical Society, and as such, has an automatic seat on the Capitol Commission. This interview was conducted in February of 2009.

What does this building represent to Idahoans, in your estimation? When I think about this building and what it has seen through the years and what buildings and artifacts and archives and all the items that are remnants of our culture -- what they really represent are moments in time. Sometimes we think of history as in the distant past, but, in fact, it was yesterday. And these representations of our culture come from transformational moments of people being here.

So when we think about how many laws were enacted here, how many people have sat in these rooms, in these offices, what stories they have seen over Idaho's history -- this building embodies those transformational moments that allow us to grow and develop as a culture.

One of the things I kept hearing all day today was that this has been a once in a lifetime moment for everyone on the commission. And I think that as we reflect upon all the work that the commissioners have done in ten years - long before many of us have been involved - it's really a testimony to the value people place in Idaho on historic preservation and our cultural memory.

How does Idaho compare to other states in that regard? From what I've seen of people out and about the state, they are fiercely proud of their history. I think that in part comes from sort of that spirit of the west, that pioneers came across the country and they settled here. And the land was tough, and you had to be tough to be able to work that land and survive and grow and develop. And then we transformed the land and made it work to our benefit and ended up with places like the Magic Valley and the Treasure Valley and all the valleys that helped to develop life here as we know it.

So I think that Idahoans have a great amount of respect for their history and the land because it's part and parcel of the same experience.

How do you move everything out of a 100 year old building and store it so you can then find it again when the project is completed? The Historical Society is a remarkable system of cultural resources. That includes the state museum, state archives, the historic preservation office and, as well, historic sites; and the work here has touched every department.

So, for example, all of the records that were held in this building had to be transferred to our state archives; and we have a whole warehouse that is full of state official records that we have to provide access to, to the public.

Everything had to be crated and measured and moved and taken to storage, and many of those things are being restored right now, to be re-installed when the capital opens. Certainly the furniture restoration was no small part of that work, where hundreds of tables and chairs and other things had to be taken out, catalogued, inventoried, looked at in terms of what kind of damage was on those pieces so they could be sent out to bid to be restored. So, whether it was an object or an archival piece or an official record, we have touched and handled it in some way.

Our historic preservation staff, along with our museum and site staff, also helped with technical assistance and providing the research necessary, because we have all the original drawings and receipts from when this building was first built; so all of that information had to be accessed to do the restoration research for the work that had to be done here.

So it's really been quite something to be able to assist in that endeavor, because we hold all of those records for this exact purpose.

What did you see today on your tour that impressed you? I think what I am coming away with today is the sense of place. It's the authentic piece of history that connects us to that particular time that something was built and conceived. But what was amazing today is to see it in its whole.

We've been looking at drawings and schematics and photographs and powerpoints for two years, but to see this in its whole and in its entirety and to see how the light reflects off of the newly painted surfaces, and how the skylights lend that just little misty element of light, and to feel this place - it's a whole different story, and I think the public is going to just be thrilled!