No irony here – Ada County officials have done exactly the right thing in choosing over much debate to leave alone and exposed the recently revealed WPA mural of a 19th century lynching.

As posted about in Portland Public Art a year ago, see Idaho Lynch Mob Mural, Boise found a remnant of our racist past, hidden behind a curtain in it’s own courthouse.

From the Spokesman Review: BOISE – Despite recommendations that a controversial mural showing the lynching of an American Indian should be moved, covered up or explained with an interpretive plaque, a legislative task force has decided to leave the historic mural on display in a building where state offices are opening.

State workers moved into the old courthouse this week, and the next legislative session will be held there, beginning in January. Mike Nugent, manager of research and legislation for the state Legislative Services Office, said no one had asked him about the murals yet, but he’d only been working in the building for a few days.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of foot traffic yet,” Nugent said.

Local do-gooders, basically media and academics, are chagrined at the decision. Why dispute local tribal leaders? Why stoke the national opinion North Idaho is filled with racists rednecks? Why hurt prospective business and tourism?

Because anything else – hiding the mural, destroying it, removing it – would be dishonest to history. The mural exposes a moment when this image was NOT shocking, a time when justice by the gun, by the rope and by the mob was common and accepted, when lynchings were just an unfortunate but practical tool of our recent past. Painted by self-taught artist Fletcher Martin in the early 1930s, the mural was draped with Idaho and US flags by Gerald Schroeder now chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court, then managing the district court for Ada County.

Is it not true? No – it seems the murals don’t tell a particular story, but no one denies lynchings occurred, and historical records are littered with accounts, in all the western states and provinces. What do the tribes want? For the murals to be preserved and removed. Preserved – maybe. Removed? Why? Are they not true?

This story shows another aspect to the complication of public artwork; that in a generation or two, images I, you, we all, consider interesting, important, story-telling, whatever, can transform, because of the public artwork’s commitment to sustaining permanence, into a hideous reminder of prejudice and violence, a reminder of our common past – a past we forget or remove at our mutual peril.

Spokesman Review sez Our View: Wrong message – Inaction on Boise courthouse murals irresponsible