New curator Kelly J. Stanford (center) accepts the ION Heritage Museum keys from retiring curator Joann Cunningham at Cunningham's retirement party. (Photo courtesy of Tara Echave)

 JORDAN VALLEY – Joanne Cunningham, 82, has retired as curator of the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada Heritage Museum after 19 years.

Kelly Stanford, whose husband is Cunningham’s nephew, was selected last spring to be the new curator after her family joined the Jordan Valley Owyhee Heritage Council. The council manages the museum.

“We knew she was ready to retire, so we decided we'll help out at the museum,” Stanford said. “We signed up to be on the board and the night we signed up, the council approved us to be members of the board.”

Right after Stanford’s selection for the council, Cunningham said, “Okay, I’m retiring.”

Stanford’s selection to be the new curator is fitting not just because of her interest in helping out around museum but also because she has strong family ties to the area. Her family was among the original settlers in the region.

Cunningham wore many hats during her time as curator of the ION Museum, from receiving, organized and maintaining artifacts to giving tours and teaching visitors about the history of the area. And this was all done by Cunningham on a volunteer basis at a museum with annual budget of only $5,000.

“Joann has done an excellent job setting up that museum and keeping it open,” Mike Hanley, council president told the Owyhee Avalanche newspaper. “Her donation to the community of Jordan Valley is almost unheard of in this day and age.”

The first museum opened in 2003 in the Now and Then Building and moved to the former boarding house and opened in 2006.

Cunningham was an essential part of keeping the museum running since its opening, which has left some pretty big curator shoes for Stanford to fill.

“Those are some very big shoes to fill,” Stanford said about becoming the new museum curator. “Joann has done an awesome job. I definitely have my work cut out for me.”

But even though Cunningham has retired from the curator position, she told Stanford more than once that “she's more than willing to come over and help.”

The ION Museum recently was awarded $10,000 grant from the Oregon Heritage Commission to repair a leaking roof and last week hired Lassiter Roofing in Payette to do the repairs, expected to be completed in August.

“Many areas area leaking,” the council said in its application to the state for the repair money. “The water will damage the building and possibly ruin it and the irreplaceable collections.

“Lassiter’s done a lot of projects around Jordan Valley, and actually has done a really great job in helping our community,” said Echave, who is also the project manager of the roof repair.

News tip or photo opportunities? Contact multimedia journalists Austin Johnson [email protected]/(541) 784-7151

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