The Idaho City Historical Foundation has been chosen to receive the 2016 Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for outstanding museum interpretation and historical preservation at a special award ceremony on Saturday, April 1, 2017, 2 pm to 4 pm (presentation will be at 2:30 pm), at Idaho City’s historic Pon Yam House on the corner of Commercial and Montgomery Streets. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony and to enjoy refreshments afterwards.
Given annually by the Idaho Humanities Council, the Idaho State Historical Society, and the Idaho Heritage Trust, the Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award carries a pooled $10,000 prize to be used by a chosen museum, historical society, or interpretive organization to continue its educational efforts. The Sister Alfreda award is the highest honor currently awarded to a museum in the state. Representatives from all three organizations will be in Idaho City on April 1 for the award ceremony.
Established in 1958, the Idaho City Historical Foundation’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the Boise Basin. Over the years, the ICHF has met its mission in some innovative ways. With help from the Idaho Heritage Trust, the Idaho State Historical Society, and the Idaho Humanities Council, the ICHF has preserved buildings, interpreted history, and often brings scholars to the community to nurture interest in the history of Idaho, the region, and Idaho City. In addition to a museum, the ICHF maintains a number of other historic buildings and several parks, and cares for the historic Idaho City Cemetery. Idaho City was a gold-mining boom town of the 1860s, and today many buildings and artifacts are preserved thanks to the ICHF.
“The Idaho City Historical Foundation is working with a variety of projects and presentations to meet a diverse public audience,” noted Janet Gallimore, Executive Director of the Idaho State Historical Society. “The Foundation continues to preserve the rich history of the Idaho City area through its Boise Basin Museum, Pon Yam House, Territorial Prison, and other properties. The Foundation is most deserving of the Sister Alfreda Award.”
Idaho Humanities Council Executive Director Rick Ardinger praised the ICHF as being more than a promoter of history.
“The Idaho City Historical Foundation is the cultural center of the Idaho City community,” Ardinger said. “History is the reason why so many people visit the town throughout the year. The ICHF’s John Brogan Park is a place for weddings, family reunions, music fests, and more. Every July 4th the town meets to read aloud the Declaration of Independence, and then enjoy picnics. The ICHF is the town’s cultural hub.”
Idaho Heritage Trust Director Katherine Kirk praised the ICHF’s extensive commitment to so many historic structures and activities.
“The Foundation’s motto is ‘History is our Future.’ Through their care and management of seven historic buildings including two museums, two historic parks, and the pioneer cemetery, they perpetuate an authentic experience of the original Idaho City for many international visitors and tourists,” Kirk said. “For a small community and a small organization, they are at the heart of saving and promoting the history of the town.”
“We are so honored to receive this award,” said Idaho City Historical Foundation President Beth Wilson. “We are all volunteers giving our time and money from a deep need to protect our part in the history of Idaho. But we could not do it without the assistance and expertise of the very entities that are now recognizing our efforts.”
The special award is named after Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, founder of the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude Monastery in the 1930s. One of Idaho’s outstanding historians, Sister Alfreda sought to collect, preserve, interpret, and display artifacts from Idaho County and the surrounding area to better educate the public. “A museum is a bridge that links the present with the past,” she said.
It was Sister Alfreda’s vision of Idaho museums as exciting, interactive, and educational institutions that the award seeks to recognize by honoring one outstanding Idaho museum each year.
Previous award winners include: the Bonner County Historical Museum in Sandpoint (2008), the South Bannock County Historical Center in Lava Hot Springs (2009), the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude’s (2010), the Lemhi County Historical Society (2011), the Basque Museum and Cultural Center (2012), Wallace District Mining Museum (2013), the Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association (2014), and the Latah County Historical Society (2015).