The mission of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center is to preserve, promote, and perpetuate Basque history and culture.
Executive Director Annie Gavica gave us a look behind the scenes at this significant cultural institution.
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How has your organization evolved over the years?
The Basque Museum started in the Cyrus Jacobs/Uberuaga Boardinghouse in 1985 with the intention of saving the brick residence and sharing Boise's rich Basque culture with the community. In its 37th year, the Basque Museum has grown to include a Basque language-immersion preschool, and nine full time staff working in areas that include collections, exhibits, educational programming, Boiseko Ikastola (our preschool) and outreach. From small exhibit cases and a volunteer-run souvenir shop in 1985, we expanded into the adjacent building to share exhibits in four different galleries, a Museum Store with items made locally and imported from the Basque Country, language classes for adults, monthly programming, tours, and events throughout the year. We frequently work with Museums locally and abroad to share information, collections and exhibits and have truly become a destination for Basques visiting the West as well as people learning about how unique Idaho and the Treasure Valley really is. In doing all this, we hope that by showcasing its own history and culture, the Basque Museum & Cultural Center will empower people of all backgrounds to explore points of connection and reflect on the common dignity of the human experience.
What does a typical week look like for your nonprofit?
We always like to joke that there is no typical week at the Basque Museum, and once you think there is a pattern or typical day, it changes up. We are open Tuesday through Saturday all year, and the Summer is our favorite. We extend our hours to allow more people to come visit and open the Boardinghouse every day as there is more traffic, and it is really a gem of a tour. We enjoy welcoming people from all over the United States asking "What is Basque?" and "Why are they in Boise". Most days one can find staff welcoming visitors, sharing some basic information about the Basques, teaching them a word or phrase in the Basque language, and giving them instruction on how best to enjoy their experience on the Basque Block, including all the Basque food offerings in Boise and what they should try where. Behind the scenes, one will often find staff and interns inspecting and cataloging photos, artifacts, and documents, Curators planning and designing the next exhibit, tables and chairs being moved for the upcoming presentation or language class, and brochures, flyers, and more getting designed and printed to share our upcoming events or fundraisers. There is just not a typical day at the Basque Museum. The guarantee is that that a visitor will be welcomed with a warm smile, will walk away ready to taste some incredible Basque food, and ready to come back for a new exhibit or to attend an event.
Is there something that surprised you about working for a nonprofit?
I was surprised as how generous people can be when it comes to non-profits. I know people donate to them all the time, but until you are right in the thick of it, you don’t realize everything that donation touches and helps. At the Basque Museum, we have generous members that might tack on a little extra when renewing their annual membership, or they may send a donation in memory of a loved one, and sometimes we get a “good work” or “just because” donation, and all are very much appreciated and continue to blow me away. As a Museum, we also have generous people that share their family’s stories, photos, and even give us heirlooms and family treasures to showcase or add to our growing collection. These are equally as incredible as they trust us to collect their family’s information through interviews and photographs and then re-share that with the public. These are the most incredible ways to keep the history and culture alive and it seems that the more we work to preserve, promote, and perpetuate Basque history and culture, the more generous our members and friends are. We are so thankful for that support!
What are some of the biggest challenges you face day-to-day?
Some challenges we face as a non-profit include financial constraints, especially for things like advertising, repairs & maintenance, and technology; bodies (volunteer and paid) to accomplish projects and tasks, and time to do it all. I think these are not unique to us at the Basque Museum, and we are fortunate that our staff is passionate about their work and willing to jump in well after they should have gone home, and our volunteers are very generous with their time and talents as well. These challenges are simply ongoing and gives us the opportunity to work towards relieving those challenges in the future.
What have you benefited most from INC membership?
We have been able to take advantage of some of the professional development trainings that we would not have been able to otherwise to to timing or cost. We appreciate their assistance when we ask silly little questions, and their guidance in things like Idaho Gives. They are an incredible resource that we likely have not scratched the surface of yet.
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