A New Chapter in History

21 May 2024

History Jackson Hole welcomes all to discover a vibrant past in its new museum

Summer/Fall 2024

Written By: Melissa Thomasma | Images: Courtesy

Rendering of the History Museum Campus from East Broadway Avenue. Credit HGA Architects

Do you find yourself gazing up at the Tetons, or at the clear water of the Snake River, and wondering about the people who enjoyed these views before you? From a diversity of Indigenous groups to the earliest fur trappers, from the first hardy homesteaders to those who established the amenities of town, Jackson Hole’s history is rich with colorful characters.

Now, visitors and locals alike can delve into the area’s past in a new way; early summer of 2024 will mark the opening of the Jackson Hole History Museum in the heart of historic downtown.

“What was formerly called the Historical Society and their museum’s first iteration began in 1958, and there have been many chapters and eras of our organization along the way,” says Morgan Jaouen, executive director of what’s now named History Jackson Hole. “We’re really excited to have our for- ever home on the historic Van Vleck Block; it’s the first time we’ve been able to purchase and own the land that our museum sits on.”

Morgan says the museum’s design was a lengthy, intentional process in order to create a space that accommodates the array of the organization’s facets. Including archival space for documents, photos and artifacts, alongside exhibit space, class- rooms, outdoor programming areas and research space, the new campus will welcome people to expand their understanding of Jackson’s history in a variety of ways.

“It’s going to be a building of its time,” Morgan adds. “We will have modern standards to care for our precious objects and collections, and the contem- porary design will be paired with two historic log cabins. The visitor experience will be a melding of the past, present and future.

“We consider the museum as a jumping off point and a way for visitors to orient themselves to what Jackson Hole is all about. A lot of visitors come here for the parks, wildlife and recreation, and we help provide context to all of those things by focusing on human and cultural history. It invites people to build a strong connection to the place and the community.”

Breaking ground on the new History Museum Campus with Van Vleck descendants. Left to right Morgan Jaouen, Michelle Rooks, Dick Stewart and supporters. Credit Little Scout Creative.

The stories that History Jackson Hole will showcase in the museum will inspire guests to not only get familiar with the valley’s historic highlights, but also delve deeper into some unexpected or misunderstood aspects of the region’s past.

“The story of Jackson Hole goes back at least 11,000 years,” Morgan explains. “People surviving here, thriving, loving it here — we work to share pieces of that really lengthy history. We’re excited to tell the depth of our history, as well as bring it more up to current times. We’re really trying to connect how history got us to where we are today.”

The museum’s permanent exhibit, an overview of Jackson Hole history, was curated in concert with local historians, researchers and writers. “In addition to displays, there will be interactive components. People will get to hear the story of Jackson Hole told by those who know and love it,” Morgan says. A second, upstairs gallery will showcase rotating exhibits, featuring traveling exhibitions and ones co-curated with a variety of local partners.

The new museum will feature not only displays, but also more multimedia and sensory experiences. Guests will have opportunities to engage with interpretive text, objects, photos and touchables, in addition to family-friendly programming and self-led activities throughout the space.

“Beyond this being our permanent home and a major milestone, this new location is really meaningful,” Morgan concludes. “Right in downtown Jackson Hole, it really is the perfect stage to be sharing this human history.”

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