Museum by Refugee Focuses on Over 120 Cultures that Now Call Boise Home
Boise is a city full of people from different cultures and backgrounds. In 2019 Boise was named the most “welcoming city” by Welcoming America.
You probably know by now that Boise is home to the largest population of Basque culture. There is a small and wonderful section of downtown Boise that has a cluster of buildings that are dedicated to preserving the unique culture and traditions of Europe's Basque people. According to Atlas Obscura "The Basque culture is from the area surrounding the Bay of Biscay in southwestern France and northern Spain. Boise is the only place in the United States and even in the western hemisphere with a block that is devoted to preserving and celebrating Basque heritage."
While we certainly celebrate our Basque community there are so many other cultures that Boise has welcomed and celebrated. According to a new museum called The Idaho Museum of International Diaspora, "The history of Idaho paints incredible stories of Native Americans, earlier immigrants into Idaho – such as the Basque, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, and others – and refugees as new Idahoans have evolved from suffering to having hope for a quality life, and faith in the support from their Idaho communities. With 123 different peoples and countries of origin represented, Idaho captures the hearts of distinct peoples from around the world."
This museum was created by a former refugee from Laos. Dr. Palina Louangketh now teaches at Boise State University, leads equity and strategic partnerships at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. She wrote an article that was published by USA Today that says, "The Idaho Museum of International Diaspora (IMID, pronounced "eye mid") is an emerging multicultural community center and museum – an educational hub where visitors will connect, learn and experience histories, accomplishments and cultures of diverse people in past and current contexts. The IMID defines “diaspora” as the involuntary displacement of peoples and includes those who are not only of refugee and immigrant backgrounds, but also those who have been displaced resulting from human trafficking, adoption and homelessness."
The article describes her story and struggles of fleeing during the communist domination in Laos with her two young children in 1979. From refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines to finally the U.S. and Boise. The museum was a labor of love to let others share their stories and allow people to learn more about the varied cultures in the area and how they got here. Learn more about their programs, events, and exhibits here.