WALLACE — “They used to say that Wallace had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else, now I think we can say we have more museums per capita than anywhere else.”
The words from Bruce Flohr drew boisterous laughter from the standing-room-only crowd on Sunday inside the former Holy Trinity Epicopal Church where the new Barnard-Stockbridge Museum has decided to put down its roots.
Flohr, the chairman of the Barnard-Stockbridge board of directors, ran through the entire history surrounding the museum during Sunday’s opening ceremony, covering everything from the church building to what it took for him and his fellow board members to get the museum up and running.
Nellie Stockbridge and Thomas Nathan “TN” Barnard are known far and wide for their photographic documentation of the Silver Valley and its surrounding areas.
They documented things from everyday life, fashion, the landscapes, and even made several trips into the various mines to capture what the world was like for Shoshone County residents at the time.
The museum was primarily funded by Flohr, who splits his time between Wallace and San Antonio, Texas, and was created to give Silver Valley residents an opportunity to feast their eyes upon one of the most extensive photo galleries in the world and easily the most comprehensive one concerning Shoshone County.
“This is a top 15 photo collection in the entire county,” said Tammy Copelan, museum executive director. “It’s an excellent opportunity for us to focus on such a magnificent collection. It’s very exciting, especially for some of the longtime residents of Wallace because they are going to be able to gain access to some of their old family portraits from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.”
The Barnard-Stockbridge Collection has more than 200,000 photos, each one meticulously cataloging everyday life in the Silver Valley at the time, which helps local and regional historians better understand what the time periods were truly like in those bygone eras.
Securing the collection from the University of Idaho, where the collection had been donated, curated and housed since 1965 was no simple task, but Flohr made sure that the museum would have access to the entire collection so locals could not only look upon the collection, but could also seek out the portraits that may contain family members and then be printed out.
For Flohr, it is almost a matter of honor for the collection to come back to its home in the Silver Valley and to be enjoyed by the current generation and generations to come.
“I don’t know of any other place in the world that has literally taken this kind of digitized stored information and brought it back alive again,” Flohr said. “We're doing that right now as you can see today.”
While the museum may be housed in Wallace, the photo collection is by no means a Wallace-centric exhibit.
“This is a collection for everyone in Shoshone County to enjoy,” Copelan said. “With this collection we are going to be able to do specific exhibits, whether it be specific to each town, or event, or a specific mine. It is truly a terrific asset to our community.”
Housing the museum was a challenge, but once they set their sights on the Episcopal Church, everything came together very well.
The stone edifice was built in 1889 by famed architect Kirtland Cutter, the same man who famously designed and built the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, not to mention several other famous buildings throughout the country.
“This is such a magnificent building and after it closed we really wanted to find something for it,” Copelan said. “We know what happens to these buildings when they sit empty for too long.”
The Barnard-Stockbridge Museum is open seven days a week and is located at 312 Fourth St. in Wallace (corner of Fourth and Cedar streets).
For more information, please call Tammy Copelan at 208-556-5880.