In the heart of the Basque Block in downtown Boise, Idaho, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center serves as the learning hub for all things Basque. A thorough tour of the neighboring historical boarding house combined with an inspiring collection of pictures and stories throughout Basque history, this museum gives you a new appreciation and understanding of a culture you might not have ever heard of before.
We’ve lived in the Boise metropolitan area for over a decade and yet we never explored the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. It’s been on our bucket list, though. So what better way to start off our first exploration day for Exploring As We Go than to mark it off our list. You can read about our first exploration day here where we also visited Waffle Me Up just a couple blocks north.
I won’t go into detail about the Basque culture or history since that’s kind of what the museum is for. No spoilers here.
But I will tell you all about how to find it, what we loved, what we didn’t, and if we plan on visiting the Basque Museum and Cultural Center again.
How to Find It
What better place for the Basque Museum and Cultural Center than to reside in the very middle of the Basque Block in downtown Boise. Located on Grove St between Capitol St and 6th St, it’s very easy to find. Just look to the right of the adorable brick house.
Parking on the one-way street is limited, though. There’s no harm in driving down to check since it is prime parking. Just note that since it’s a one-way street, it can only be accessed from 6th St. If you’re not one of the lucky few to get a parking spot on the Basque Block, you can park on most streets or in one of the many garages. The Boise Centre Public Parking Garage is literally right at the end of the Basque Block. Very convenient.
Our favorite part hands down was touring the Cyrus Jacobs/Uberuaga house, the quaint brick home next door to the museum. Built back in the 1800’s, this picturesque home served first as a private residence, then as a Basque boarding house beginning in 1910. If you were Basque and you needed a place to stay, you stayed at a Basque boarding house, even if that meant sleeping on the floor. That’s how strong their sense of community was and is. Basque travelers year-round and shepherds during the winter months called this place home. If you love history, then you will love this house.
Please note, however, vistors may not photograph or video neither inside the house nor the museum. Pictures outside are okay, though. We have a few pictures of inside the museum, though, because of special permissions given to us that day.
One fact that amazing to me is that this house has survived in the heart of downtown Boise, white picket fence and all. It harkens to the value the Basque people place on their history and community, a staple of the culture. The home has been beautifully kept, restored, and filled with artifacts and historically accurate replicas (like the wall paper).
Here’s a fun fact about the artifacts and replicas: (Okay, so maybe this is a tiny spoiler from the tour.) they were found through architectural digs under and around the house that unearthed amazing artifacts all the way from the time it was built. Oh, and the hardwood floors are original.
Please note that strollers aren’t permitted on the tour, mainly because the house is small and has stairs. Kids can come along so long as they don’t touch the artifacts or sit on the beds, sofas, and so forth. Adults are welcome, too, so long as they don’t touch the artifacts or sit on the beds, sofas, and so forth.
The Basque Museum
After going on the tour, we moved on to the the museum itself. Although it is small, the walls are lined with pictures and stories of a time long gone. They also have a special sheepherders wagon and camp displaying how many Basque people lived as shepherds when they came to the Treasure Valley region. The current main exhibit is very old photographs enhanced and 3-D-ified. They come to life when viewed through the special 3-D glasses. Pretty neat!
This display ends in March of 2019 when it will be replaced with a new exhibit named “Inner Strength,” highlighting the unique stories of the brave Basque women who travelled into the West. The inside scoop is that it’s super cool! Once this new exhibit is rotated in, we plan on going again to check it out.
No lowlights here! The staff and volunteers were very helpful and welcoming, the displays inspiring, and the tour eye opening. It is a beautiful collection of historical photographs, amazing stories, and an insider peek into the Basque Culture.
We had a great time visiting the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. Insightful and informative, the tour gave us a glimpse into the beautiful culture of the Basque people. Not only was the tour very informative, the museum, too, provided a different perspective of their history, a neat way to round out our learning of the Basque culture.
Whether you’re familiar with Basque history or you’ve never heard of the culture before, this museum will immerse you in the culture and amaze you with the stories of the people. We definitely will visit again, and we hope you will, too!
Have you been to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center before? What did you think of it? And if not, do you think you’ll go visit? Let us know in the comments below!