History student curates museum exhibit for 100-year anniversary of 19th amendment ratification

Boise State student Shaina Lynch, a senior secondary education social science and history major, has utilized her degree outside of the classroom. 

Lynch created an exhibit for Our Memories Indian Creek Museum in Caldwell, Idaho, for the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

“My exhibit is called ‘The Vote’,” Lynch said. “2020 was supposed to be the year about celebrating women and the 100-year anniversary, but everything was cancelled.”

This opportunity was made possible by the History Extension Service, which offered five $1,000 stipends for students who applied with an idea to partner with a local historical organization. It was started by Bob Reinhardt, a history professor at Boise State. 

According to Lynch, she chose Our Memories Indian Creek Museum because it is small and often unknown to many people. The museum has a room dedicated to revolving displays and needed a new exhibit.

“I spent the $1,000 stipend and more on the artifacts I put in the exhibit,” Lynch said. “They asked that I focus on the women of Canyon County. For such a small area, there was a good amount of suffragettes out there.” 

Lynch handmade several items for the exhibit, including a binder with over 40 biographies of local Idaho suffragettes. She also included historically accurate outfits and items she considers beautiful that are representative of the period, such as yellow roses and sunflowers. 

Many of the women represented in Lynch’s exhibit had varying backgrounds and all lived in Idaho, but were originally from outside the area, which Lynch found to be valuable, since these women made such an impact on Idaho. 

“I really hope that someone can see what I saw when I learned about these women,” Lynch said. “These people who weren’t natives made a huge positive impact on Idaho.” 

Bob Reinhardt, an assistant professor of history at Boise State and director of The Working History Center, made Lynch aware of the opportunity. 

“We provided a stipend for this possibility and sent out students who are developing their expertise in history,” Reinhardt said. 

Reinhardt hopes this educates the public on how complicated the story of the struggle for voting rights is. In his opinion, the story is oftentimes told too simply. 

An illustration of the state of Idaho with imagery of suffragettes.
[Illustration of suffragettes and the state of Idaho]
Illustration by Abi Millet

“I hope this demonstrates the excellent work history majors can do,” Reinhardt said. “I also hope it more clearly reveals the complexities of the fight for the right to vote. It was a decades-long struggle that took determination and patience.”  

According to Reinhardt, suffragettes were never sure if the right to vote was ever going to happen, and even once the 19th Amendment was ratified, only white women could vote. Reinhardt said that once a right is secured, it takes persistence to ensure it will remain secured. 

“Shaina has provided an incredibly valuable service that shines a light on an important story,” Reinhardt said. 

Carl Roos William, a volunteer at Our Memories Indian Creek Museum and director of the Canyon County historical society, thought that Lynch’s exhibit was a great addition to the museum. 

“We welcomed her and this exhibit. It was time for a change,” William said. 

William is hopeful that Lynch’s exhibit will receive more public attention. He is not sure how much publicity it is getting and wants it to receive more. Last month, the museum only received 42 visitors. 

Though Lynch curated most items for the exhibit, the museum provided essentials for making the exhibit happen, such as tables and mannequins. 

“I really hope that people will come down and visit the museum,” Lynch said. “It needs people.”

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