NIC Molstead Library houses collection on extremism
As technical services librarian at the North Idaho College (NIC) in Coeur d'Alene, Ann Johnston keeps the Molstead Library collection of events related to the Aryan Nations group that was located in North Idaho from the 1980s to 2000.
Most of the collection was donated by Tony Stewart, who retired after teaching political science for 40 years at NIC. He helped found and still serves with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
For 35 years, he kept scrapbooks and collected his own writings and videos, along with reports of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations.
"We have the collection digitized on the website," Ann said.
Tony produced videos on campus when he hosted weekly programs interviewing people on regional, national and international human rights.
"We have the collection because, as a community that experienced hateful activity when the Aryan Nations was here, it is important to preserve that history so it is not forgotten," she said.
Ann pointed out that it is of national and international importance that this history be preserved locally. Because few students and others know the history, she said, it's crucial to preserve the record so people can know what happened and could happen again.
"In the age of digitization and the internet, it is possible to make the materials available to many people," said Ann. "History should be accessible, so we do not forget."
The trial of the Aryan Nations group that had brought hate and bombings to the region, was held in North Idaho in 2000, Ann said. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center came as the attorney to pursue a civil lawsuit.
In a criminal trial, security guards who had chased a woman and her 19-year-old son, firing into their car and forcing them into a ditch, were found guilty of a felony and sentenced to prison.
"The lawsuit 21 years ago bankrupted Aryan Nations," Ann said.
It was a moment to remember and it took place in Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai County, she said.
Details of events in the 1980s included in the collection, start with threats in 1981 against the Jewish owner of a restaurant in Hayden, and go through the 2000 trial and video of the May 2001 demolition of the Aryan Nations compound to turn it into a peace park.
Community members, NIC students and people from the Idaho Panhandle can check out materials, Those who live outside the area can access the website by looking for the link to the Human Rights Collections under the Walden History Project, which digitized NIC yearbooks from 1933 to 1974.
Ann was one of five librarians across the U.S., participating in a three-session workshop on "Curating Hate" at the Gonzaga's International Conference on Hate Studies.