Mission – History Creating Community
Activities that advance our Mission include:
- Facilitating the collection and preservation of artifacts, images, manuscripts, other printed materials relating to the history of Bonner County;
- Exhibiting and housing such materials in our Museum and at locations around the county which are available to the public
- Encouraging research of our local history
- Presenting educational and innovative programs that highlight our history, including lectures, meetings, and other events
- Creating opportunities for history to be interactive and engaging
- Partnering with local schools to create relationships that foster an ongoing interest in our shared history
In 1953, the first Museum in this area was established in Room 2 of Sandpoint High School by Dr. Ethel Page Westwood. It was called the Museum of Natural and Human History and displayed her extensive collection of rocks and fossils, along with artifacts that were contributed by local residents.
Within a year the Museum moved to the annex of the Sandpoint Community Hall, and later to the basement of the Sandpoint Library at Second and Poplar Streets. Without a permanent location, the collections suffered damage and there were limitations in how things could be displayed, so the long search for a permanent structure to house the Museum began. Fundraising efforts to build a museum started with the David Thompson Sesquicentennial
Commemoration in 1959, which put $550 into the coffers.
On January 3, 1972, Articles of Incorporation were signed by:
- Sallie Bishop
- Teresa Deshon
- Phyllis Holzemer
- K.T. Littlefield
- Herrick “Swede” Heitman
- Leonard Anderson
- Richard Curtis
On March 9, 1972, The Sandpoint News-Bulletin announced the formation of a non-profit organization dedicated to the collecting and preservation of the historical heritage of Bonner County. Mrs. Littlefield was the Society’s acting President at the time, and a temporary board of directors was named during the organizational period. The Society’s long-range goal included a museum building where collections and research materials would be available to the public.
The building project gained focus in the community during the celebration of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. $50,000 was raised in cash and pledges in a few weeks and construction began on the site of the old Fairgrounds, now Lakeview Park. The grand opening was held in July of 1980.
Over the years, county residents have shown their generosity by contributing thousands of artifacts, photographs, and documents related to their family and community histories. After 30 years of collecting, the Trustees are now looking at opportunities to expand the Museum in order to continue preserving our county history and serving local residents and visitors with quality exhibits, research, and programming.
The Society is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees that are elected by the membership of the organization. The Museum is managed by a full-time Director and a staff of talented and dedicated volunteers. As the Museum is a repository of county records, Bonner County contributes funds each year to the Society’s annual budget. The remainder of the Museum’s operating expenses are raised through admission fees, gift shop sales, memberships, memorials, research fees, special fundraisers, and grants.
In 2001 the Society was honored to receive the Esto Perpetua Award “in honor and recognition of significant contributions to the preservation of Idaho history.” The Society and Museum was once again honored in 2008 by receiving the first Sister Alfreda Elsensohn Award for excellence jointly presented by the Idaho State Historical Society, Idaho Humanities Council, and Idaho Heritage Trust.
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Board of Trustees
Bonner County Historical Society Trustees have a fiduciary and policy-setting responsibility for the welfare of the Museum. The board is extraordinarily generous, supporting ongoing operations and special needs.
2017/18 Officers of the Board
- Ruth Wimberly, President
- Barbara Botsch, Vice President
- Ann Dutson-Sater, Treasurer
- Irv Jenkins, Secretary
- Zelma Brisboy
- Denise Zembryki
- Brent Featherston
- Nancy Fontaine
- Will Valentine
- Royal Shields
- Kathy Osborne
Executive Director, Olivia Luther Morlen
Bonner County History Museum’s Executive Director, Olivia Luther Morlen, joined the museum in August of 2012. Olivia came to the museum with a strong mix of both for-profit and non-profit management skills. Olivia received her BA in Art History, with a minor in Public Relations, from San Diego State University and a MPhil in Art History and Connoisseurship from the University of Glasgow, Scotland and Christies, London. She served as Chief Curator and Museum Director at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido from 2005-2011. She has curated over 60 exhibits, published 3 catalogues, and designed over 20 successful public and educational programs.
Since arriving at the Museum, Olivia has worked with the board and a wonderful team of volunteers to update exhibits, reimagine the space to maximize exhibits, and create a series of public programs that appeal to a wider audience. With a firm belief in the event driven museum, she is currently working with the board to rebrand the organization, including a revision of the mission statement to History Creating Community – reinforcing the belief that a community centered organization is better positioned to remain relevant and vibrant.
Museum Coordinator, Cassi Marler
The Museum Coordinator, Cassi Marler, is a fairly new resident of Bonner County and she couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the community. Although originally from Seattle, she believes her childhood is better described as growing up in a 1978 motor-home, traveling the western states of the U.S. with her family. This sense of exploration and love of the outdoors was instilled in her at a young age by her parents, and left her with dreams of living in a small town and endless adventures. Cassi studied Agriculture Technology and Ranch Management at Washington State University where she discovered a passion for training horses and a yearning to learn more about industry based communities.
Coming from a long line of artifact hunters and rock hounds, she believes her love for history and artifacts runs in her blood. Following one of her aspirations, Cassi started a small jewelry business using many of the rocks and stones her ancestors unearthed, as well as some self-taught metalsmithing practices. In her spare time, you will find her anywhere outdoors- fishing, hunting, hiking, trail riding or exploring. She is very excited to learn more about our areas history. Stop by the museum and say hello to Cassi!
Curator, Heather Upton
Our Museum Curator Heather Upton’s love of history and design began as a young child. She was hooked when she found her first treasure at an Antique Shop at the age of five. A graduate from the University of Oregon, with a focus on visual arts, she studied prolific jewelry design houses. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Art History. Her vocation expanded to include nearly a decade in interior and personal design. She later acquired her Gemology Degree through the Gemological Institute of America. She is currently an independent jewelry consultant, specializing in assisting individuals with their jewelry wardrobes. She identifies, appraises and in many cases re-fashions pieces. Her hunt for antiques continues, as she finds fantastic treasures for resale; on display at Oak Street Mercantile, in Sandpoint. Heather states, “Curating for the museum is a delight. It’s a true combination of my passions; Design and History.”
In addition to her curatorial duties, Heather looks forward applying her skills from over a decade of merchandising and buying experience within the specialty boutique realm to the museum’s gift shop. Her goal is to transform the museum gift shop, into an environment that would entice not only museum goers but individuals from the community to shop on a continual basis. She’ll be expanding merchandise categories; offering quality items that are both unique and fun. In her role as curator, she wants to create thought provoking exhibitions and presentations that captivate the viewer allowing our patrons to leave with their imaginations invigorated and their minds brimming with new information.
611 S. Ella Ave.
Sandpoint, ID, 83864