The Idaho City Historical Foundation is set to receive the 2016 Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award. The award is the highest honor given to museums in the state.
A group of organizations, the Idaho Humanities Council, the Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Heritage Trust have presented the award to the foundation for “outstanding museum interpretation and historical preservation.”
The public is invited to an awards ceremony from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, at Idaho City’s historic Pon Yam House on the corner of Commercial and Montgomery Streets. Refreshments will be served.
The Idaho City Historical Foundation was established in 1958 to preserve the history of the Boise Basin. Idaho City was a booming gold mining town in the 1860s and 1870s, substantially more lively and populous than Boise. The community was the largest city in the territory and home to an opera, theaters, breweries and bowling alleys.
Today, the foundation maintains a museum that preserves relics of the gold rush days, but also a number of historic buildings, including the Territorial Prison and the Pon Yam House, a former Chinese grocery, where the awards ceremony will take place. The foundation also oversees parks in Idaho City as well as its pioneer cemetery.
“We are so honored to receive this award,” said foundation president Beth Wilson.
The organization is run by volunteers, she added, who all believe deeply in preserving area history.
The trio of historic organizations award the Elsensohn honor each year. It comes with a $10,000 prize to be used by the winning museum, historical society or interpretive organization to promote education.
“The Idaho City Historical Foundation is the cultural center of the Idaho City community,” said Rick Ardinger, director of the Idaho Humanities Council. “History is the reason why so many people visit the town throughout the year.”
Ardinger noted the popularity of the foundation’s John Brogan Park for weddings, family reunions and music fests. Residents, he added, also gather every Independence Day under the auspices of the foundation to read the Declaration of Independence aloud.
“The foundation is the town’s cultural hub,” Ardinger said.
The award is named for Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, a historian devoted to Idaho history and founder of the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude Monastery in Cottonwood, Idaho in the 1930s.
Past 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).