Sainte-Gertrude Historical Museum: Renovation includes seven galleries, a wide range of artifacts, interactive stations | Cottonwood News

COTTONWOOD – A six-year project comes to an end as the St. Gertrude Historical Museum enters its final stages and will be fully renovated for the public.

“The museum’s mission is to preserve the rich heritage not only of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, but also that of the Camas Prairie, the Snake River, the Salmon River and surrounding areas,” said Mary Schmidt, Director of the museum renovation project.

In 2014, the museum was appraised by external experts and a five-year renovation plan was developed by the museum’s renovation team, which also included staff Debra Graham, Shirley Gehring and Krista Green, volunteer Frank Halter and sister Joan Smith. Fundraising and planning coexisted and the work began.

“It’s been a lot of work,” admitted Schmidt, “But we wanted to make sure that we best convey the values ​​of the sisters and that we share the history of our region through stories.

Phase 1 included The Sisters’ Journey Gallery. This exhibit winds its way through the museum and tells the story of the Benedictine Sisters of Idaho, including their journey from Europe to America. This life story includes their move to Cottonwood and the blue porphyry stone quarried from the mountains behind the monastery and used as the cornerstones of the convent.

“The sisters also helped extract this rock, and it was hard work,” said Sister Kim Marie Jordan.

Today the blue rock still serves as a foundation and the red towers with golden crosses are a beacon across the Camas meadow that invites people from all over the world to ring the doors of the county treasure.

Photos of the sisters over the years, the items they have used – including household and household conservation tools, a printing press, desks, and a shoemaker’s cart – are dotted throughout the museum. In the newly formed exhibits there is also a “selfie station” where one can sit on an old wooden chapel chair and take a photo against the wall art true to the size of a group of people. sisters in their habits.

“One thing we wanted to do was make the museum more interactive,” explained museum director Carla Nuxoll-Wilkins.

To this end, QR codes have been included along the stream. Visitors can use their phone’s camera to scan the code, which brings up additional information.

“Obviously, there is so much more information than we could fit into one museum,” Schmidt added. “So that allowed us to add videos, more detailed information and photos. “

Plus, there are exhibit guide sheets, flipbooks, a coloring station, and a place to try on wooden shoes and trendy Polly Bemis and Buckskin Billy fancy dress clothes to help bring an experience. practice of history to children and adults alike.

Phase 2 included a special construction – handcrafted by the maintenance worker at Calvin Bakie Monastery – titled “Sister Alfreda’s Attic Museum Gallery”.

“Sister Alfreda Elsensohn is the reason this museum is here,” Schmidt said. “She was the curator of history in the beginning and her little museum started inside the building of the previous monastery.”

The replica of her original attic museum, first opened in 1931 with a collection of minerals from the National History Museum in Washington, DC, features interesting artifacts that she has preserved and exhibited, including minerals and stones treasures, taxidermy (which as a science teacher was a class she taught), a victrola, and the ever popular Siamese pig fetus kept in a jar.

“It’s something the kids always remember, the pigs in a jar,” smiled Wilkins. “However, we want the set to be more memorable; we want them to get so much more out of it, and with this renovation, we think they will.

Phase 3 was The Fascinating Lives Gallery and tells the stories of some of the area’s most interesting and famous characters, including Polly Bemis, Buckskin Bill, Winifred Rhoades Emmanual, Sam Emmanual, Ray Holes, Frances Zaunmiller Wisner and Bill Wassmuth , as well as the sliding story panels on Tolo, Gertrude Maxwell, Frank Fenn, Grace Jordan, Earl Parrot and Sister Mary Paul Tacke.

“Polly Bemis is definitely one of the most popular exhibitions,” Schmidt said. This includes photos, clothing, collectibles, and more.

This phase also included a “Gallery of Our Treasures” which allows the museum to exhibit unique artifacts that are not part of any major history, Schmidt explained, but “are rare gems in our collection.”

This also encompasses the ‘Gallery In The Spotlight’, which is a space for temporarily exhibiting and telling the story of specific collections and enjoying future traveling exhibitions.

Phase 4 addressed Gallery A of From the Prairie to the Rivers and tells the story of the area’s colonization, including mining, the Chinese of Idaho, and the Nez Perce tribe.

“Our Nez Perce exhibit is limited to that part of the history of our region and we think the Spalding Museum has done a fabulous job sharing all of that history,” Schmidt added.

Phase 5 is From the Prairie to the Rivers Gallery B and tells the story of agriculture and includes the Cooper’s Ferry exhibit featuring a 13,000-year-old western point-to-rod artifact from the Salmon River excavation (made possible with the support of David Sisson, Bureau of Land Management, Cottonwood and Loren Davis, Oregon State University).

This area also includes the chronological wall exhibit which highlights 25 key events that provide context on how the area was colonized.

The walls here contain photos and stories of four people of very different origins who settled on the prairie: Nezperce’s cobbler, Josiah Redwolf, German owner of the Keuterville mill, Charles J. Poxleitner, Austrian brewer, Joseph Schober and Ladd Arnoti from Hungary whose family settled in Cotonnier.

“The area has really been a melting pot,” Schmidt said.

Also in this area is “The Change Gallery”, which offers an opportunity to reflect on how household life has changed, maps and gemstone collections, as well as a small collection of guns. .

New track lighting was installed throughout the museum, various display panels were fashioned from old monastery doors, and the reading areas were made using old altar rails.

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Patrick F. Williams