‘They are stealing our history’

Museum experiences rash of thefts, closes to the public for a week

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

The Bonner County Museum will close its doors to the public the week of Aug. 24 to heighten security measures after several items were stolen from exhibits in recent weeks.

The thefts came to light when Museum Interim Director Heather Upton noticed two pieces of advertisements from the Lakeside Laundry portion of the “Women Who Shaped Bonner County” exhibit were missing.

An exhibit at the Bonner County History Museum. Three pieces were stolen from this display, including a large calendar to the left of the photograph. A small coin was also taken from another exhibit, along with several other items. Photo courtesy Bonner County History Museum.

“In terms of the value on the open market, it’s very insignificant,” Upton said of the ads. “But it’s huge in terms of our collection … That was hard for me to process.”

Some time later, Upton noticed more missing items: a receipt enclosed in plexiglass, an antique compass, an SD card full of digitized photos and more.

“Someone donates a very special artifact to us to help us tell the story of Bonner County, and when someone takes that from the museum it’s not only hurting the museum — they’re hurting the community,” she said. “They are stealing our history. That is what’s happening … We were all very hurt and outraged.”

Upton said the museum does not have the means to put every item under glass or attach a sensor to every object, as in some larger museums and galleries.

“We do not have the funding to be able to do that, [and] I don’t want to inhibit the creativity and the storytelling within the exhibits by not being able to put certain pieces out because certain people can’t be trusted,” she said.

The Bonner County Museum will be closed to the public for a week starting Monday, Aug. 24, and will be using that time to install more cameras and remove some archival items from the current exhibits. However, museum employees and volunteers will still be working to fulfill research requests and will be available to accept donations for their fundraising yard sale slated for Sept. 12. 

The museum is also accepting monetary donations to go toward new security measures, and is always accepting new sponsorships and memberships to fund day-to-day operations.

Upton said that facing theft in the midst of an already tumultuous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult.

“We go to such lengths to preserve Bonner County history for everyone,” she said, “and the fact that they are working against us by taking those pieces from the collection is devastating.”

The museum has filed a police report regarding the missing items. Anyone with information can call the museum, no questions asked, at 208-263-2344.

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