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The Washington State Historical Society’s annual History Awards recognize excellence in advancing the field of history in the state of Washington through writing, teaching, historic projects, and understanding cultural diversity.

 

About

Make a Nomination!

Nominations for the annual history awards are now closed.

Need More Info?

Contact Allison Campbell, Heritage Outreach Manager via email at allison.campbell@wshs.wa.gov.

Washington State Historical Society employees are not eligible for the awards.

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 American and 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.

R. 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.

2020-2021 History Award Honorees

Robert Gray Medal

The 2020 Robert Gray Medal is awarded to Dr. William (Bill) Baarsma, in recognition of his significant, long-term contributions to the study and teaching of Pacific Northwest history. The Robert Gray Medal is the highest award bestowed by the WSHS. Bill Baarsma’s contributions have included an active role in saving the historic Union Station and the Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma, as well as widely sharing his passion for local history with diverse audiences, and leading the Tacoma Historical Society Board. From a nomination letter: “Among his passions is the history of his native city of Tacoma. He has delivered a myriad of public lectures about the City of Destiny, and since 2013 he has guided the Tacoma Historical Society to new levels of stability, professionalism, and civic engagement. In this time he has been a voice for cultural diversity, through promoting an inclusive board and notably through his role in Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park Project.”

David Douglas Award

The David Douglas Award recognizes the significant contribution of an individual or an organization that informs or expands appreciation of Washington state history. The 2020 award is given to Brad Richardson of the Clark County Historical Museum, for his leadership and the museum’s continued community engagement throughout the pandemic.  His nomination stated, “When the museum was shuttered, the work was not.  The staff worked tirelessly to ensure that exhibits were virtually available; educational efforts continued; and outreach to the community did not stop.”

Peace and Friendship Award

Celeste Dybeck, Jamestown S’Klallam, Native Connections Action Group, and David Toledo, author and enrichment program instructor are both honored with this year’s Peace and Friendship Award. This award is presented to a Native American and a second individual, each of whom has advanced public understanding of the cultural diversity of the peoples of Washington State.

Celeste Dybeck received the award for her work on the čičmǝhán Trail in Port Townsend. A nomination describe the impact of this work: “The story of the čičmǝhán Trail is a powerful example of what can happen when Native history is prioritized and valued within the larger context of government-to-government relations and community activism. Celeste’s work with the Native Connections Action Group of the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship created a lasting legacy in Port Townsend, and I have already witnessed scores of visitors to the Trail and increased awareness of S’Klallam history and culture in myriad ways. This cannot be understated. The Trail is not just about S’Klallam history; it is also about the ongoing relations between the S’Klallam and other Native peoples on the Peninsula to a settler culture that is growing and expanding in the present.”

David Toledo has built unique programs that educate underserved youth in Seattle, and his book Skin, Bone, and Fat Laces: Race, Culture, and Community in Seattle was the first novel focusing on the history of Seattle’s hip-hop culture. As noted in a nomination, “David Toledo has a lifelong history of actively building bridges between cultures, communities, races, and economic status.” Toledo was further described as an administrator who builds programs that attract and retain a diverse group of leaders, teachers, and students, and a teacher who builds inspired curriculum for ESL, low-income, and special needs youth, using traditional and contemporary arts to provide equal access and equity. In 1998, Toledo helped to establish the Unified Outreach youth arts program to serve children in transitional housing shelters; today, Unified Outreach is one of the most diverse programs serving Seattle, with a board comprised of more than 70% people of color and over 50% identifying as women. He has actively recruited instructors and students from Seattle’s most underserved areas.

Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History:

Leslie Heffernan, a teacher with the Central Valley School District-Spokane, and Lane Sample, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum‘s Education Program Coordinator have been awarded this year’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History. This award was established by the Washington State Legislature and recognizes outstanding contributions by a teacher of Pacific Northwest history in an accredited K-12 school in Washington or a non-profit organization in Washington.

Nominators lauded Leslie Heffernan as an exceptional teacher who has advanced social studies education through numerous avenues. To describe just one of her endeavors, “Leslie has created additional inquiry units for Pacific Northwest history that are now available as open educational resources for the entire state . . . Of special importance, Leslie has built on this effort over the past five years by collaborating with members of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. Working together, they have created units of study that integrates knowledge of the Spokane Tribe that is accurate and culturally responsive; these units of study provide local, place-based academic content for Washington State and Pacific Northwest history.

Lane Sample received nominations describing her creative and inclusive teaching practices, and her ability to educate people of all ages. “Lane is truly an innovative educator, who always finds unique, eye-catching, soul reaching ways to inspire learning – while at the same time individuals have so much fun that they often do not realize that they’ve been ‘learned.’”

John McClelland, Jr. Award

John McClelland Award – Jo Miles for the article Written Under Duress: The Abduction of Involuntary Scribe Frederick White, published in COLUMBIA Winter 2020-2021. This award recognizes the best article published in COLUMBIA Magazine, the quarterly journal of the Washington State Historical Society, during the previous year. The article will exhibit the readability and general interest that typifies COLUMBIA.

Charles Gates Memorial Award

Charles Gates Award – Madison Heslop for the journal article Linking Violence Across the Pacific: The B-29 Superfortress in Seattle’s and Tokyo’s Urban Landscape, published in PNQ Winter 2019-2020. This award recognizes the most significant achievement among all articles published in the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Quarterly during the previous year.

R. Lorraine Wojahn Award

The R. Lorraine Wojahn Award for outstanding volunteer service at the Washington State Historical Society is posthumously awarded to Henry “Hank” Fenbert. Hank passed away suddenly in November 2020, “leaving a large hole in the heart of the WSHS volunteers, especially the close-knit Friday volunteer team.” For 24 years, Hank shared his genial personality and encyclopedic memory with Washington State History Museum visitors. His ease in talking with strangers about anything that interested them made him an excellent ambassador, and he had an incalculable impact on the history community.

2019-2020 History Award Honorees

Robert Gray Medal

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.

The 2019 award goes to Dr. Dale Soden, Professor of History at Whitworth University, in recognition of his significant contributions to the study and teaching of Pacific Northwest history. Dr. Soden’s research and frequent publications have focused on the ways the PNW has been significantly influenced politically and socially by individuals who were highly motivated by religious convictions, including examinations of the role that African American pastors and churches played in the civil rights struggles on the west coast.  As an innovative teacher, Dr. Soden is renowned for his leading of folk songs, but most notably Roll on Columbia in which he asks his students to sing to him on the phone as they cross the Columbia River.

Read more about Dr. Soden

David Douglas Award

The David Douglas Award recognizes the significant contribution of an individual or an organization that informs or expands appreciation of Washington state history.

The 2019 award is given to Dr. Larry Cebula, who holds joint positions as director of the Public History Program at Eastern Washington University and assistant director of the Washington State Digital Archives. In his role as director of the Public History Program at EWU, Dr. Cebula has educated students who now hold positions in museums, national parks, city preservation commissions, and other public programs across the state and the nation. Larry has pioneered public history projects that are not only important in their own right, but also models for similar programs across the nation. His Northwest History blog won the Cleopatria Award and his digital resource, Spokane-Historical, features more than 500 geotagged entries on historic sites in the Spokane region.

Read more about Dr. Cebula

Peace and Friendship Award

There are two awards annually in this category. One is presented to a Native American individual or collaborative and the other to a non-Native individual or collaborative for work in advancing public understanding of the cultural diversity of the peoples of Washington State.

Winning the award for their collaborative efforts on the exhibition Beyond Borders: The Indipino Community of Bainbridge Island are Joann Oligario and Jeanine Greco. This exhibition at the Kitsap History Museum in Bremerton was the first to examine the history of the marriages of First Nations women and Filipino American men on Bainbridge Island during World War II.

Joann Oligario (Squamish, Sechelt) is a tireless advocate for Indigenous, civil, labor and women’s rights and has devoted her life to collecting and documenting the history of her family and others in her Indipino community. Joann grew up on her family’s farm on Bainbridge Island. She joined the Navy and served as a nurse in the Vietnam War, later becoming a radiological technician. As an elder of the Indipino community, Joann has facilitated cross-cultural fellowship and increased understanding of the historic events that brought the founders of her community together.

Jeanine Greco is the curator at the Kitsap History Museum in Bremerton and acted as staff lead and cultural liaison in the research, planning, and design of Beyond Borders.  Her work on the exhibition began with a meeting with Indipino elders, ensuring that the voices and experiences of the Indipino community were centered throughout the narrative. Jeanine acted as facilitator for the story and consulted with elders at every step, building meaningful relationships and trust between communities.

Read more about Joann Oligario and Jeanine Greco

 

Peace and Friendship Award

There are two awards annually in this category. One is presented to a Native American individual or collaborative and the other to a non-Native individual or collaborative for work in advancing public understanding of the cultural diversity of the peoples of Washington State.

Randy Lewis, (Wenatchi/P’squosa, Methow, Okanogan) receives this award for his dedication to fostering intercultural dialogue and understanding. Born on the Colville Indian Reservation and raised immersed in the teachings of his people, Randy has drawn on the strength of this foundation to become a renowned Indigenous political activist in Washington state and a treasured oral historian. Currently serving as a consultant and volunteer at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, Randy shares the history and teachings that are his ancestral inheritance with audiences throughout the State. He is known as a warmly engaging speaker who brings ancient stories to life, imparting their lessons and gifts to new generations.

Read more about Randy Lewis

Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History:

The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History is presented to an outstanding certified teacher of Pacific Northwest history in an accredited K-12 school in Washington or to an educator in a nonprofit organization.

The History Awards Review Committee received one incomplete application for this award for 2019. Given the pressures teachers are facing related to school closures and remote education during 2020, the committee decided not to present this award this year and to double its efforts to promote nominations for the award next year.

John McClelland, Jr. Award

The John McClelland, Jr. Award is presented for the article that most exhibits the readability and interest sought after by COLUMBIA–The Magazine of Northwest History, published quarterly by Washington State Historical Society.

Dr. Quin’Nita Cobbins-Modica receives the 2019 award for her article, Finding Peace Across the Ocean: Daisy Tibbs Dawson and the Rebuilding of Hiroshima, published in the spring 2019 issue of COLUMBIA. Dr. Cobbins-Modica is an historian of African American women’s history in the American West. She formerly held a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of History at Gonzaga University and recently stepped into the role of director at BlackPast.org.

Read more about Dr. Cobbins-Modica

Charles Gates Memorial Award

This longstanding award recognizes the most significant achievement among all articles published in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly during the previous year.

For 2019, this award is given to Dr. Zhongping Chen for his article, Chinese Labor Contractors and Laborers of the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1880-1885, published in the winter 2018/2019 issue of Pacific Northwest Quarterly. His research interests include the history of late Qing and early Republican China as well as the global Chinese diaspora. Dr. Chen’s publications include dozens of journal articles and five books in Chinese and English.

Read more about Dr. Chen

R. Lorraine Wojahn Award

This award recognizes outstanding volunteer service advancing the work of the Washington State Historical Society.

Don Meeker is the recipient of this award for his significant contribution to the Society and the people of Washington through his work digitizing oversized material in the collections. He faithfully comes in fourteen hours a week and in four years has scanned and added to the database over 6,000 photographs and negatives, maps, ephemera, and art.  Don has created a detailed users’ manual for the complex digitization equipment that will enable future volunteers and staff to continue this important work.

Read more about Don Meeker

2018-2019 Award Honorees

Robert Gray Medal

Tom Ikeda, Founding Executive Director of Densho, in recognition of his tireless efforts to preserve and share the history of Japanese American WWII incarceration in Washington State and beyond.

As Founding Executive Director of Densho, a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to sharing personal stories of Japanese American incarceration, Ikeda has exponentially broadened public awareness of this dark chapter of our history. He has worked to capture first-person perspectives of that history through oral history interviews, photos, letters, and other materials. Tom Ikeda’s extraordinary commitment to activating Japanese American history through education, arts, storytelling, the Densho Digital Archives, and advocacy, ensures that this knowledge will be kept alive for generations to come.

David Douglas Award

The Washington State Archives and Washington State Library, housed within the Secretary of State’s office, are presented with this award for 2018.

The archivists and librarians worked relentlessly to rescue and preserve artifacts, ephemera, historical documents and more, on behalf of the Aberdeen History Museum, when the museum’s building was destroyed by fire in June, 2018. Secretary of State Kim Wyman swiftly sent the Washington State Archives team to assist in the retrieval and recovery of water soaked photos, negatives, slides, film and tapes. Like the firefighters, the archivists and librarians were working against time-if not properly cleaned and dried, mold growth would cause permanent damage. The entire State Archives team was focused solely on the recovery until every viable item was stabilized. Many of the State Library staff worked side by side with archivists. Still others volunteered to assist when they could get time away from scheduled work. Their reward was solely preserving history for generations to come. As the nominations stated, “these are unsung heroes” of Washington’s history.

Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching History

Dwight Morgan of The Heritage Network in Colville, Washington, is the worthy recipient of this award.

During his long teaching career at Kettle Falls Elementary School, Dwight was completely dedicated to his students. He provided hands-on experiences for his 4th graders to help them understand the historical significance of the local falls on the Columbia River as a vital salmon fishing site for Native peoples. He taught about the legacy of the trade route centered at Kettle Falls.

Now retired from teaching, Dwight Morgan continues to educate visitors at the Kettle Falls Historical Center about the rich history of the area.

Peace and Friendship Award

There are two awards annually in this category, presented for work in advancing public understanding of the cultural diversity of the peoples of Washington State.

Phillip H. Red Eagle receives this award for his roles with Carvers Camp and Tribal Canoe Journeys. In his quiet, reserved way, Philip Red Eagle, Dakota and Puget Sound Salish, has become a cross-cultural unifying force, generating broader understanding between Native American, European American and other ethnic groups in Washington State and the North Pacific region. A graduate of the University of Washington with two degrees, and a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, Phillip is a published author, photojournalist, artist, poet, storyteller, teacher and mentor. Philip has worked diligently in the area of cultural resurgence. He worked with Native leader Tom Heidlbaugh, esteemed elder Emmett Oliver, and many others to grow the impactful and widely-known Tribal Canoe Journeys. He has been part of the Canoe Nations Program, focused on bringing back the traditional carved canoe to the Northwest and for use in the Canoe Journeys. During the past three decades, Canoe Journey has grown from fewer than ten canoes to more than 120 canoes and 10,000 paddlers. As a cultural, heritage and educational program for youth and adults, it has become a model for similar efforts throughout the Pacific Basin.

Also winning the award for their efforts on the history project Interwoven are Tessa Campbell and Fred Poyner IVInterwoven is an initiative of the National Nordic Museum focusing on oral histories of people with blended Indigenous and Scandinavian identity.

Tessa Campbell is presently the Senior Curator at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve at Tulalip Tribes. Tessa has played a critical role as a partner, panelist, and host in Interwoven. Her work on the program began with consulting about developing the initiative, identifying tribes and points of contact, and soliciting participation. As stories were being collected for the project, she worked with Fred Poyner IV and others to develop a symposium schedule. She participated as a panelist for the first symposium in 2018, and as the host for the second installment in 2019. Campbell’s contributions to Interwoven have been exceptional, defining this important oral history program.

Fred Poyner IV is Project Director for the Interwoven project. Poyner’s work on Interwoven began with the development of an outreach program to identify, establish contact, and orchestrate interviews; these recordings were then preserved for the oral history archive and uploaded to a publicly accessible database on the National Nordic Museum’s website. Poyner is currently moving the Interwoven initiative forward, working with tribes throughout Washington State to record more stories, exploring the potential of a national reach, and bringing further attention to these important and diverse cultures.

Charles Gates Memorial Award

The award goes to two recipients: Andrea Geiger for her article Haida Gwaii as North Pacific Borderland, Ikeda Mine as Alternative West: 1906-1910 (Fall 2017, Vol. 108 No. 4), and Christopher Foss for Bringing Home the (Irradiated) Bacon: The Politics of Senator Henry M. Jackson’s support for Nuclear Weapons and Energy during the Cold War (Winter 2017/18, Vol. 109, No. 1).

Andrea Geiger is an associate professor of history at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and the author of the award-winning Subverting Exclusion: Transpacific encounters with Race, Caste, and Borders, 1885-1928 (2011).

Christopher Foss is adjunct professor of history at the University of Portland and Tokyo International University of America. He has published essays in Oregon Historical Quarterly, the History Teacher, and Passport.

John McClelland, Jr. Award

Bruce A. Ramsey receives the 2018 award for his book excerpt, The Panic of 1893, published in the winter 2018-19 issue of COLUMBIA magazine.

Bruce is a Washington writer and researcher, retired after a career in journalism in Seattle and Hong Kong.

The Panic of 1893: The Untold Story of Washington State’s First Depression explores the economic, social, and cultural impacts of this long-ago financial crisis which impacted Washington very shortly after statehood.

Bruce Ramsey is now at work on his second book of Pacific Northwest history.

R. Lorraine Wojahn Award

Michael Martin is the recipient of this award for his diligent and valuable volunteer work in the marketing department as well as during programs both at the museum and in the community.

Martin volunteers weekly and posts the Society’s busy calendar of events on the many publications and organizational calendars around region; as a result of his work, people find out about the Society’s offerings and are able to participate. He has sought additional opportunities, such as tabling at outreach events and public festivals.

Martin’s professional career is teaching English to non-native speakers, and he has brought several of his classes to the History Museum to share his enthusiasm for learning about Washington.

Michael Martin plays a vital role in carrying out the museum’s mission of partnering with our communities to explore how history connects us all.