Sunday, August 28, 2011

Where in the World is Queen Ida(ho)?

I returned from a summer-long road trip to a long to do list and a pile of mail (the mail that could wait--a friend forwarded the important things). My to dos included a visit to the Boise Public Library for an annual update of my contact information.

As I stood in the checkout line at the downtown library I looked to my right for a comforting welcome home nod from Queen Ida. I expected to see Queen Ida where I left her this spring: sitting regally on the throne of Idaho, cradling a potato in one hand with a hoe as her scepter in the other, attended by a mountain bluebird and adorned by a sprig of flowering syringa. I had missed seeing her warm face, turned toward me so that its edge follows the jagged ridgeline of the Bitterroot Mountains on Idaho's eastern border.

But Queen Ida was gone. I stared at a wall as blank as a bowl of cold oatmeal. Only a forlorn picture hanger remained where the framed poster of the Queen had hung and ruled serenely over library patrons.

I asked after Queen Ida while the woman at the desk updated my information. But she hadn't noticed the abdication. The librarian at the information desk reported that others of Ida's devoted subjects had inquired about her. But she couldn't remember the details of the Queen's whereabouts. I left my business card and hoped for an update.

The next day Kevin Booe, the Boise Public Library director, called me with a full report on the absent sovereign. (Apparently matters of missing royalty go directly to the top at the library.) Kevin assured me that Queen Ida's absence is only temporary. She has gone to visit Terri Schorzman at the Boise Department of Arts and History. This department encourages the public, literary, visual, and performance arts and preserves historic and cultural artifacts. Terri is looking into the details of the Queen's copyright to see if it's possible to make a copy of the poster.

Kevin also shared some of Queen Ida's story with me. She was created by Carl Babcock, an art professor who worked at the library after he retired. The poster was commissioned for Idaho's state centennial in 1990. Other paintings by Carl, of scenes from Alice in Wonderland, hang in the children's section of the Library.

If you also miss the twinkle in Queen Ida's eye next time you're in the main library, don't worry. The queen will return soon to reign over library patrons, librarians, and directors.


  1. Awesome! It's great to know that, (1) your concern went straight to the top and that the top took the time to respond to you and (2) that Queen Ida is being respected to such a degree and (3) that Queen Ida will be back.

    I confess, I was in there the other day but rushed in and out w/o looking around to notice the absence of Queen Ida.

  2. Linda,

    I stopped by the library today to see the Alice in Wonderland paintings. They're lovely. My favorite is the Walrus and the Carpenter (...were walking close at hand. They wept like anything to see such quantities of sand...) I must reread Alice.

    Then I ran upstairs to see the Booker's Dozen...but it had left a day or two earlier. Sarah Lenz, who attended Boise Nonfiction Writers while she was in Boise, was one of the winners.


  3. My father, Carl E. Babcock, painted Queen Ida -
    I happened across this site while browsing.
    He was proud of this and I would love to know more about it's whereabouts and the people who appreciate it. Thank you !

  4. Bluechaser43,

    How lovely to hear from you! Queen Ida is a great favorite of mine, as you can tell. I wish I had gotten to thank your father in person.

    I haven't checked up on the Queen recently, but I will. I'm eager to know if her copyright would allow me to have a copy at home. If not, I'll continue to visit her at the library.

    If you're not in the Boise area, I'd love to take you to a personal audience with the Queen on your next visit.