Wallace author to speak at Museum of North Idaho meeting


By CHANSE WATSON Shoshone News-Press
Managing Editor | April 20, 2021 7:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The history of Wallace and the Silver Valley will be in the spotlight when local author and historian Dr. Heather Branstetter speaks at The Museum of North Idaho’s annual virtual meeting later this week.

The annual meeting, held on Friday at 6 p.m., is arguably the institution’s largest fundraiser for the year and always features a guest speaker. Branstetter explains that she was slated to participate in the event last year, but couldn’t due to the pandemic.

The group plans to hold its business meeting from 6 to 6:45 p.m., then have Branstetter jump in and control the show until 8 p.m.

“What I’m going to do is give a brief talk summarizing the role of research, the importance of museums in preserving local history, and then will show the short documentary that many people still haven’t seen since it hasn’t been released for distribution,” she said.

The documentary, appropriately titled “Wallace,” is an 18 minutes long film that is primarily based off of information found in part 3 of Branstetter’s book, “Selling Sex in the Silver Valley.”

Courtesy of Heather Branstetter

In the book, Branstetter details the complex sex trade that developed in Wallace to meet the ‘needs’ of the flourishing mining industry that was operating around it. Part 3 specifically deals with oral histories from residents talking about the once booming prostitution profession.

Wallace director Delaney Buffett first got the idea for the project in 2018 when she came across a mention of the Oasis Bordello Museum in a book called Atlas Obscura. It was from there that she decided to pursue the idea of filming something there.

By way of the Wallace Chamber of Commerce, Buffett was connected with Branstetter, who showed her that there was much more to the town’s history than just the Oasis.

“She was super open and collaborative,” Buffett said of Branstetter in a previous interview. “She made my life ten times easier and was very inviting.”

“Wallace” features interviews of those who lived in Wallace during the heyday of prostitution. While the film has not yet been released for distribution, it already made its world premiere at the Sun Valley Film Festival on March 16, 2019.

Following the showing Friday night, Branstetter will field questions, discuss the documentary, and explain how her book fed into it.

The virtual event will be live streamed over Youtube live where viewers can ask questions to the moderator.

Tickets are $5 for Museum of North Idaho members and $10 for non-members. They can be purchased at eventbright.com under the event name “MNI Annual Meeting w/ Guest Speaker Dr. Heather Branstetter.”

All the money raised from the event goes to supporting the Museum of North Idaho.

“They need all the help they can get because they are moving into a bigger and better facility where they will be able to do more educational work and better protect the archival materials that they have,” Branstetter said. “They have a lot of good resources for people doing history research.”