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History Awards

The Washington State Historical Society's annual awards recognize excellence in advancing the field of history in the state of Washington through writing, teaching, historic projects, and understanding cultural diversity. WSHS welcomes nominations for these annual awards.The awards are presented each year at the Society's annual meeting in September.  

For further information about the awards program, contact Society Awards Committee staff member Susan Rohrer, Director of Statewide Outreach, at (253) 798-5919 or email: susan.rohrer@wshs.wa.gov. Washington State Historical Society employees are not eligible for the awards.

To submit a nomination please download the Nomination form and return to Susan Rohrer. 

Robert Gray Medal

List of Awards:

  • Robert Gray Medal
    First given in 1968, the Robert Gray Medal is the highest award bestowed by the Washington State Historical Society. It recognizes distinguished and long-term contributions to Pacific Northwest history through demonstrated excellence in one or more of the following areas: teaching, writing, research, historic preservation, and service to local historical societies. The winner receives a framed Robert Gray Medal with certificate.
     
  • David Douglas Award
    First given in 1979, the David Douglas Award recognizes the significant contribution of an individual or an organization through projects, exhibits, digital presentations, or programs such as apps, websites or blogs, educational products or any other vehicle that informs or expands appreciation of any field of Washington State history during the previous year. No book nominations permitted. The winner receives a framed certificate and David Douglas pin.
     
  • Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching History
    First given in 1998, the Governor’s Award is presented to an outstanding certified teacher of Pacific Northwest history in an accredited K-12 school in Washington or to a nonprofit organization. The awards committee welcomes nominations of persons who demonstrate effective teaching by any measure of excellence. This may include, but is not limited to the use and development and an innovative curriculum, consistent effectiveness in utilizing Pacific Northwest history in either the classroom or the community over an extended period of time, the advancement of Pacific Northwest history as a field of academic inquiry, a lasting impact on students, the use or development of innovative technology, and the encouragement of Pacific Northwest themes in History Day presentations. The award includes $750 and a Gold Star of recognition.
     
  • Peace and Friendship Awards
    First given in 1975, one of the two Peace and Friendship Awards is presented to a Native Americanand the other to a non-Native individual who has advanced public understanding of the cultural diversity of the peoples of Washington State.  Winners receive a framed President Jefferson Peace and Friendship Medal with certificate. If nominating for both awards, submit separate nomination materials. 

  • Charles Gates Memorial Award
    First given in 1965, the Charles Gates Memorial Award recognizes the most significant achievement among all articles published in Pacific Northwest Quarterly during the previous year.

  • John McClelland, Jr. Award
    First given in 1989, the John McClelland, Jr. Award is presented for the best article in a particular volume of Columbia Magazine. The winning article exhibits the readability and interest that typifies Columbia.

  • Lorraine Wojahn Award
    First presented in 1991, the Lorraine Wojahn Award is given to a person who has provided outstanding volunteer service to the Washington State Historical Society or the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

2018 Award Winners

Robert Gray Medal: 

Jack Nisbet, a naturalist, teacher and author, receives this award in recognition of his scholarship and writing about the natural and cultural history of the Pacific Northwest. Nisbet has substantially contributed to our understanding through documentaries, museum exhibits, and publications. A few of his most well-known books are The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest; Sources of the River: Tracking David Thompson Across Western North America; and Visible Bones: Journeys Across Time in the Columbia River Country.

“Jack deserves this distinguished honor for several reasons. First, he recognizes that natural and cultural history are inextricably entwined, and investigates this complex relationship to present a more holistic view of a given subject. Second, his research gives voice to individuals who would otherwise be nearly silent in the historical record, highlighting the indigenous and mixed-ethnicity peoples who offered knowledge and guidance to early naturalists,” said Theresa Langford of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site/National Park Service. “And third,” she added, “he continually and inexhaustibly shares his passion with others through lectures, classes, tours, and workshops.”

David Douglas Award:

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum received this award in recognition of the organization’s success in engaging new audiences with history. Museum staff created an adventure called “Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually”―an escape room experience based on actual events that occurred at the original fort in 1853. As stated in a nomination submitted by Metro Parks: “Understanding that many of us are interactive learners, staff developed a series of clues drawn from documented historic events to develop Trapped: Escape Fort Nisqually. This high energy suspense game engages up to eight players in a group endeavor to uncover clues and solve puzzles … they work to beat the hour glass and locate a key that will enable them to escape from one of the fort’s historic structures within a suspenseful one-hour timeframe. Puzzles are drawn from primary source documents in the museum’s archives. Participants play by candlelight and are immersed in a 19th century environment.” That sounds like award-winning fun!

Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History:

Luke Thomas of Mt. Spokane High School receives this award for his outstanding contributions as a teacher. Thomas has been a true inspiration for students, both those who thought they did not like history and those who wanted to push the envelope in the subject. “Through a lens focused on exploration and the question of ‘why’ something happened, students are able to apply their knowledge in order to gain a complete understanding of historical events … all of his students leave with a passion for the subject and a heightened world view,” said Mt. Spokane student Caleb Marll. Mt. Spokane’s principal, Darren Nelson, addressed Thomas’s ability to connect students with history by encouraging them to learn and do more. “Outside the classroom, Luke’s work with National History Day has given multiple students the opportunity to delve deeper into historical events or time periods, and their work has been nothing short of spectacular. It is clear through students’ projects that they are learning a great deal about the significant role of the northwest in both U.S. and world events. If not for the leadership of Luke Thomas, these opportunities would not be possible,” said Nelson.

Peace and Friendship Award:

Deva Leinani Aiko Yamashiro is posthumously awarded for her work as the founder and director of The Ke Kukui Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining and sharing Hawaiian culture. Under her leadership, Ke Kukui brought thousands of people together to learn about Hawaiian culture through classes, competitions, music and festivals. The annual “Three Days of Aloha” event in Vancouver, Washington, is the largest Hawaiian cultural festival outside the Islands, and in 2017, the city’s mayor proclaimed September 15 (Yamashiro’s birthday) as Deva Leinani Aiko Yamashiro Day. The organization has been a force for positive change, and Yamashiro’s focus on peace and friendship was evident in her words, as printed in the Columbia:

“’Aloha’ has been repurposed as a simple friendly greeting in recent years, but its original meaning is deeper and subtler: it’s ‘the breath of life,’ ‘love and respect,’ ‘peace,’ ‘compassion’ and ‘mercy.’ It’s a way of life. It’s in your spirit and your being. If the world had more aloha, we wouldn’t have all these problems.”

Allyson Brooks, Ph.D., also receives the Peace and Friendship Award for her role in returning the Ancient One (previously known as Kennewick Man) to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Yakama Nation, and the Wanapum of Priest Rapids. Dr. Brooks is the historic preservation officer and director of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for the State of Washington.

“In the true spirit of the Peace and Friendship Award, Dr. Brooks reached out well beyond the scope of her duties to right a wrong and provide closure to a hot button issue which lasted over 20 years for five of the Plateau tribes and the Native Peoples of Washington, who fought to have the Ancient One returned so he could be reburied as dictated by our culture. When all movement forward ground to a halt, Dr. Brooks approached Senator Patty Murray to craft and forward a bill that would direct the US Army Corps of Engineers to return the remains to the Claimant Tribes. She rallied support on both sides of the aisle. Dr. Brooks was able to communicate to Congress, agencies, and the Corps of Engineers the injustice to not only the Ancient One, but also to the Tribes, that had taken place for over 20 years and provided a solution. She was able to bring together a diverse group of people in order to help craft a bill that was simple and heart-felt. Her passion, conviction, and commitment to this issue exemplify the purpose of the Peace and Friendship award,” said Guy Moura, who is the tribal historic preservation officer of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Charles Gates Memorial Award: 

Trevor James Bond, Ph.D., received this recognition for his article, Documenting Missionaries and Indians: The Archive of Myron Eells which appeared in the Summer 2016, Volume 107, No. 3 issue. Bond earned a Master's in Library and Information Science with a specialization in archives and preservation management, along with a Masters in Ancient History at UCLA. He completed his doctorate in public history at Washington State University in 2017, where he is the Associate Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections and co-director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation. Bond is currently writing a book chapter on WSU’s longest-serving president and noted collector, Ernest O. Holland, and he is revising his dissertation on the Nez Perce Tribe's purchase of the Spalding-Allen Collection for publication.

John McClelland, Jr. Award:

Craig Holstine received this award for his article Lacey V. Murrow and his Upstanding Bridges, published in COLUMBIA’s Spring 2017, Vol. 31, No. 1. Holstine recently retired from his role as historian for the Washington State Department of Transportation's Cultural Resources Program. His article overviews the life of Lacey Murrow, highlighting Murrow’s history-making work on the spans over Lake Washington and the Tacoma Narrows. The two bridges opened one day apart in July of 1940. Just a few months later, on November 7, 1940, the long-awaited crossing over the Narrows twisted into infamy as Galloping Gertie when oscillation due to high winds caused much of the center span to plummet into Puget Sound. Holstine’s compelling article offers readers insight into Murrow’s life before, during and after his bridge-building days as Washington Director of Highways. Holstine also co-curated, with Clark McAbee, Peak of Their Professions: The Murrow Brothers, a traveling museum exhibit shown at the State Capital Museum in 2013 and featured on C-SPAN. His book Spanning Washington: Historic Highway Bridges of the Evergreen State was published in 2005.

R. Lorraine Wojahn Award: 

Kent Anderson is the recipient of this award for his diligent and valuable volunteer work in organizing records for the Heritage Capital Project’s (HCP) archives. He also developed summaries of each of the projects from the beginning of the program. As a result, the Historical Society can provide quicker responses to the public and to legislators regarding questions about historic buildings and past policy decisions. Anderson is currently working to develop a continuing education program for the museum’s gallery volunteers by conducting research, writing about and providing talking points for historical topics. Continuing education is pivotal in enhancing the visitor experience through informed and museum docents. “Kent is easygoing, enthusiastic, and a pleasure to work with. He has dedicated over 175 hours to the Heritage Capital Projects department alone. We are so fortunate to have him on our team. He richly deserves the recognition of the Lorraine Wojahn Volunteer of the Year Award,” said Lissa Kramer, program director for Heritage Capital Projects.