New museum leader has history with Cd’A

Britt Thurman is the new director of the Museum of North Idaho.

CDA Press Staff Writer | November 11, 2020 1:00 AM

The new director of the Museum of North Idaho doesn’t have to go through the traditional acclimation process for discovering the area and its rich history.

For Britt Thurman, accepting the job meant coming back and re-discovering her home.

“The community has changed so much in the past eight years,” Thurman said. “The city and the area has changed, and I’ve changed, as well. So finding that familiarity was very rewarding for me.”

Thurman accepted the executive director position — replacing Dorothy Dahlgren, who retired Oct. 31 after leading the museum for the last 38 years — after returning to the area in what would ordinarily be dour circumstances.

“Everybody was laid off at the (Science Museum of Virginia),” she said. “So it gave me a chance to come home and take this wonderful opportunity.”

Thurman graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School before studying at the University of Idaho. After the Vandal graduated in 2012, she began her graduate studies at the University of Kansas, launching a museum career that expanded her acumen to include museums in Massachusetts and finally Virginia before coming back to Coeur d’Alene eight years later.

“It’s great to be back,” she said. “I grew up in Coeur d’Alene and am familiar with some of the spirit behind what makes this place special.”

The museum closed for the season Nov. 1, Thurman’s first day on the job. But even though the exhibit hall has shut its doors for the winter, Thurman will be plenty busy. She walks into the mammoth project of helping the museum transition into its new facility — the J.C. White House, now at the base of Tubbs Hill by City Hall — and beginning the next chapter of its story.

Thurman admitted she was at a loss for words when she came home to find the White House perched in its new location.

“It’s exactly what the museum needs,” she said, “and to have it be multi-faceted, and to preserve that house and keep it from being demolished is amazing. It’s the perfect centerpiece for our next step.”

Thurman said fundraising efforts to move into and eventually expand are on track to meet 2020 goals, but more help is needed. She said she believes her biggest asset to contribute to the museum right away is her ability to engage with the community.

“It’s interesting to think about the pandemic as museums are facing a lot of cutbacks right now,” she said. “But the Museum of North Idaho is trying to expand. I hope my history working with businesses and business leaders, leveraging skillsets and working on capital campaign projects will help.”