News » Citizen

Robyn Lockett

Capitol restoration by Excel


Robyn Lockett holds the rare and little known title of "relocation specialist." Never heard of it? That's because she works behind the scenes on the renovation of the Idaho State Capitol, coordinating the movement and cataloging of furniture during the now substantially complete upgrade of the original early 20th century building. She focuses on the legislative branch of government, keeping track of desks, chairs, coat racks, phones and more for Idaho's lawmakers.

So how'd you get into this position?

Prior to this position, I worked for a couple different non-profits. I worked with Habitat for Humanity, right out of college, at their international headquarters, in a tiny, tiny town in southwest Georgia. I went as a volunteer and I loved it. I loved it so much that I stayed a second year, and they hired me on as a staff person.

After those two [years] I was kind of ready to move back home. Boise's my home, I love it here. I was born at St. Luke's, graduated Boise High. My husband's from here, too. We didn't meet until later; it's nice now that we're married, we both have our families here.

I think I got the job because I approached it as a big event. I had managed events and the planning and logistics of people, places, things, etc., for Habitat and AmeriCorps, so I just approached the moving of the Capitol as one big choreographed event.

How'd you "move" an entire building?

When you talk about keeping track of computers and printers and phones and little coat racks and coat hooks, it's tens of thousands of items. So basically, we've built a giant matrix of furniture. I've kinda become an Excel nerd. Just to keep track of everything, which agency or group it belongs to, which staff person's office it's in, whether we're going to reuse it back in the Capitol or not, whether it's surplus or not. When we moved out of the Capitol, I think it was something like 25 semis worth of just stuff--cartons of files, etc. There were vault rooms that, in and of itself, just had hundreds and hundreds of boxes of historical records. So we worked with the Historical Society.

How'd you organize it all?

There's another gal who does a similar position; she oversees the executive branch--Kelly Berrard. She's great. I've learned a lot from Kelly. She's very, very detailed. I thought I was detailed-oriented; she makes me look like I'm crazy and ditzy and all over the place.

We have a giant inventory. I have a furniture inventory, and it has thousands and thousands of items on it. Basically, over the last couple years, we've gone and inventoried every piece of furniture.

Anything that was worth keeping we sent to the Historical Society. We made many generous donations to the Idaho Youth Ranch, and some local agencies, some school groups, Computers for Kids, with our furniture and stuff that was obsolete. But most of it we brought over here to the Annex.

We moved everyone out in April of 2007, over here to the Capitol Annex, where we held two legislative sessions, and it was kinda like camping out. And the trouble was there wasn't a lot of room for the public. And one of the main reasons we did the restoration was to provide more space for committee rooms for the public.

Actually, once we got everybody in, we were working on the logistics of moving everything back.

Tell me about some of the items.

All of the different state agencies used to be housed in the Capitol, and when they left, they took their furniture with them. So all of the original Capitol furniture is sort of spread out across the state.

The antique coat trees are my favorite. I can't say I know why. I picture the legislators coming in since the '20s. I picture them coming in with their big coats and taking them off and hanging them on the original coat hooks, coming in on whatever mode of transportation.

One of the neat things, one that I'm most proud of, is we had a lot of the original furniture replicated.

There's the existing stuff, everything you see, and the historical furniture, and of course, the new furniture. And our goal was to replicate as much of it as we could. This is pretty close to what the new desks look like. They have these special bronze-capped feet and the original brass pulls. They're simple and classic, and they've really worn well.

We found a foundry here in Idaho that would cast these for us, these coat hooks.

Are all of the original pieces going back?

A lot of the original items have gone back to the original owner, some of them were only on loan to the Capitol, and a lot of them have been put on hold until we can find a good place for them.