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Idaho Constitution Is Restored And Returned To 130-Year-Old Document To The State

Idaho Public Television
University of Utah Paper Conservator Stacey M. Kelly works on the first page of the Idaho constitution in December 2019. Kelly removed layers of lamination then reassembled the torn pieces with a backing of thin Japanese paper.

“We, the people of the state of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution…”

...our state constitution begins. 

Created in 1889, this document has been the guiding force behind Idaho law ever since.

But while the state has held up over the last 130 years, the physical copy of its constitution has had a harder time. 

Over the last four months the constitution has been painstakingly restored at the University of Utah. And on Thursday, it came back home to Idaho.

Layce Johnson oversaw the restoration project for the Idaho State Historical Society. “There were a variety of preservation issues,” she said in an interview with Idaho Matters. “The text block was coming from the spine. We had two pages — the preamble and the first page of article one — that had been laminated.” Lamination was for a while decades ago an archivist best practice, but the chemicals in the plastic have been causing significant damage to the document over the years. 

"It was scary to consider logistically taking the constitution out of the state." - Layce Johnson, Idaho State Historical Society

Idaho Public Television has been documenting the restoration of Idaho’s founding document. Billy Manny joined the interview from IPTV and noted a key reason Utah was a good choice, desipite the fear around moving the document out of state.

“Interestingly, the University of Utah was doing work on the Utah state constitution at the same time," he said. "So not only did [Idaho] feel comfortable sending it to them, they also knew this is a lab that had done work on a very similar document and had good recommendations.”

Credit Idaho Public Television
Conservators at the University of Utah examined and tested the constitution’s paper and inks before deciding on a restoration plan.

Plus, the Utah lab is well-equipped for the task. “They have a world class preservation lab with a paper conservator and book binders,” Johnson said. 

On the flight back from Utah, the Idaho state consitution got its own boarding pass and seat, and made it safely back to the Gem State. It'll be on display to the public at the archives from March 10 through April 11. 

On March 8, IPTV will air the newest episode of “The Idaho Experience” which will display and explain the work that was done on the physical constitution. 


Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters

Samantha Wright is a news reporter and producer for Idaho Matters.