Museum History


The Appaloosa Museum Story

The story of the Museum and that of the Horse Club is comparable to siblings growing up in the same family. While each has many experiences in common and even physical characteristics, there are distinctive features to both. Like the Horse Club, the Museum had its birth in the basement of the home of George and Iola Hatley in Moscow, Idaho in the early 1940's. Claiming one corner of what was to become the early office of the registry a collection of Appaloosa horse related artifacts and archival material began to grow. These items reflected both the Nez Perce and non-Nez Perce cultural manifestations of the horse and chronicled the critical involvement of the horse to both the Native American and Western American history. These early items were given a fairly simple display. However, the Museum collection grew steadily during that period. Many of the initial display items were from early breeders and particularly the Hatley family. Such gifts still form a major foundation piece for the current Museum collection and this tradition continues to enhance the collection.

When the ApHC had grown beyond the confines of the Hatley home a move was necessary to larger quarters on First Street in 1958. The Museum items could then be displayed on more wall and floor space. Three years later and growing like a teenager the Club moved to a storefront location in downtown Moscow on Jackson Avenue. Following its older sibling the Museum moved with the Club. My first involvement with the Club and the Museum was in this location. I still vividly recall both my own and my children's interest in and attraction to the artifacts. The Museum now had an "upstairs" living space prominently located in one of the storefront windows of the reception area of the Club. The collection always seemed to be growing. The initial space, which had seemed so large, compared to the basement corner, over time, filled both walls and the floor to overflowing. Fortunately for the Museum the ApHC was experiencing a similar phenomenon. So, in the late 60's plans were discussed, commitments made and ultimately a new ApHC building was built at its present state line location in 1974.

Included in the new building was a distinct and separate, but attached, "Museum Wing" of about 1850 square feet of space. This new space seemed enormous at the time. The move also marked the transition of the Museum from "younger" sibling to becoming an adult. The Museum became incorporated as an IRS 501 (c) 3 corporation in 1975. This meant that it now had its own Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, Board of Directors and Officers. Affirming the family ties was the provision in the Museum Bylaws that members of the ApHC were also by virtue of that affiliation members of the Museum. This tie remains to the present day.
The new location and organizational structure was the beginning of the present day Museum. In addition to more space was the need to have more professional help and guidance. For a number of years we worked in cooperation with the University of Idaho Museology program. Unfortunately the University eliminated the program. Fortunately by that time the Museum had a firmly established program of professional help and leadership. This was also a time of organizing, cataloging, and managing the display of the ever-growing collection of material related to the history of the ApHC.

By the early 1990's it was evident that once again we had outgrown our home. An active and major fund raising program was begun and with the help of literally hundreds of loyal Museum patrons and members, funds and materials were gathered and construction on the Museum addition was begun in 1997. This marked the first construction project by the Museum; however, under the terms of the lease agreement between the Museum and the ApHC, the building remains in the ownership of the Club. The new addition more than doubled the old space and has allowed for a greatly expanded and changing exhibit format, plus gift shop. There is also now a "virtual" Appaloosa Museum and gift shop through our Website. The attractive facility, capable and gracious staff, strong governance, and fascinating mission of preservation and promotion of the history of the Appaloosa horse allows us to enter this new century with optimism and confidence. Hopefully we will "see" you at either your real or "virtual" museum in the near future.

King Rockhill, Friend of the Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center