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Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award

Sister Alfreda

The Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for Outstanding Service was initiated in 2008.  It has been a joint award given annually by the Idaho Humanities Council, and Idaho State Historical Society to recognize outstanding service by an Idaho museum, historical society, or interpretive organization/association.

The Award is named for Sister Alfreda Elsensohn, who founded the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in Cottonwood.  Sister Alfreda, one of Idaho’s outstanding historians, sought to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts from Idaho County and the surrounding area to better educate the public.  A museum is a bridge which links the present with the past, she often said. It is her vision of Idaho museums as exciting, interactive, and educational institutions that the Award seeks to recognize by honoring one outstanding Idaho museum, historical society, or interpretive organization/association.

The following criteria will be considered by the sponsors each year in determining the awardee for that year. Additional criteria may also be considered:

  • Will have a record of outstanding professional programming.
  • Will be leaders in the field of Idaho museums, historical societies, or interpretive organizations/associations.
  • Will have a record of sharing their resources and information with community and statewide partners, thereby assisting in the development of professional level historical interpretation, displays, and preservation of Idaho’s History.
  • Will demonstrate success in collaborative community work.
  • Will be able to use the funding to move to a higher level of professionalism and have experience in administering and implementing grant-funded projects and programs.



While only one Award will be given annually, it is the goal of the sponsors to have a fairly even distribution of the award in the various geographical regions of the state.  There is no application form to complete; the sponsors select an awardee each year.

Sister Alfreda Award Highlight

Potlatch Historical Society

Photo: City of Potlatch and Potlatch Lumber Mill

Potlatch Historical Society receives the Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for its outstanding work. Given annually by the Idaho Humanities Council and Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS), the Sister Alfreda recognition includes a $10,000 award to be used by the awarded museum, historical society, or interpretive organization to continue its educational efforts. 

As the twentieth century dawned over North Idaho, Midwest timber barons feasted their eyes on the region’s vast white pine forests. They had an ambitious plan to build a giant sawmill, company town and later a railroad. By the end of the same century, the sawmill and railroad were gone, but residents of the company town had a new ambitious plan: to preserve the unique history of Potlatch, Idaho and its adjacent communities. As the town built a new library in 1999, architects designated exhibit space for the newly-organized Potlatch Historical Society. A CD of historic photos from the Potlatch Lumber Company era earned seed money for projects, and restoration of the WIM Railway depot provided headquarters for the PHS Collection and Archives. Ordinary citizens supplied the muscle, and still do.

In its first 20 years, the Potlatch Historical Society has branched out to showcase the Riverside dance hall era (Johnny Cash played here!), helping create the Return to Riverside Music Festival. Some members focus on the school district, which once included 30 far-flung rural schools, while others research the noteworthy agricultural contributions. And the web presence and partnership with University of Idaho Special Collections help broadcast Potlatch Historical Society activities to an even wider audience. Upcoming projects on the boards include new interpretive signs around town and restoration of the town’s first neon sign that will be lit and located in a mini-park next to the historic Log Cabin.

Connect by visiting: Potlatch Historical Society | Potlatch ID | Facebook

The Idaho State Historical Society and the Idaho Humanities Council will present the 2022 Sister Alfreda Award to the Potlatch Historical Society at a ceremony on:

Saturday, April 29th
2:00 pm
WI&M Railway Depot, 185 Sixth Street, Potlatch (in the Freight Room)

Public is invited to attend.
For more information please contact:  Karen Rohn, President,

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