The Idaho Museum of International Diaspora

Giving back to the community that embraced her family

Meridian resident Dr. Palina Louangketh [‘loo-on-gate’], a former refugee from Laos, came to Boise as a young girl in 1981. Finding a way to give back to the community that welcomed and embraced her family has been a childhood dream, and has evolved into the framework for a museum called the Idaho Museum of International Diaspora.  Its acronym is IMID and is commonly pronounced 'eye-mid' or 'IM ID,' as in 'I'm Idaho.’

Diaspora is a word rooted in ancient Greek meaning ‘to sow or scatter seeds.’  Today “diaspora” is associated with cultural groups being displaced from their origin homelands for multiple well-founded reasons, often paralleling the motivations of European pilgrims not long ago. For refugees, freedom, safety for their children, and escaping persecution and war become a matter of life and death.

“I am passionate about preserving and honoring the human journey from around the world through art, music, literature, video, photography, and food,” says Dr. Louangketh.   Completing her education at Boise State University, she now teaches at her alma mater in the Health Sciences, and University Foundations Program.  

“Throughout my life I have been gifted with incredible mentors, and my one true inspiration and hero is my mother.” 

IMID will highlight the lives of diaspora groups from within Idaho and the world.   In 2019, the University of Idaho’s College of Art and Architecture entered into a partnership to help conceptualize a home for the museum in Boise.   “The goal is to give students an opportunity to tell a story through the design journey — just as IMID will tell stories of people from different cultures, their journeys and of place making in Idaho,” explained Rula Awwad-Rafferty, program head and professor of Interior Architecture and Design, whose students participated in the project.

The multi-phase design project engaged a variety of local, national, and international partners, including Cushing Terrell, which provided professional support for the students and design studios.

“We believe this partnership provides a significant opportunity to foster equity and diversity. We’re excited to contribute to an inspiring cultural and community resource in the Treasure Valley,” says Cushing Terrell principal Jason Butler.


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