History of the BCHS
In 1953, the first Museum in this area was established in Room 2 of the 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:
Herrick “Swede” Heitman
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 BCHS. The Museum is managed by a part-time
Director/Curator and a staff of talented and dedicated volunteers. As the
Museum is a repository of county records, Bonner County contributes
approximately $20,000 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.
The Museum maintains an active schedule of educational programming,
research, and exhibits. Please follow the link to see images from some of
the Museum sponsored programs during the David Thompson Bicentennial in 2009.
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
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Board of Directors
Bonner County Historical Society Trustees have a fiduciary and
policy-setting responsibility for the welfare of the Museum. BCHS’s board is
extraordinarily generous, supporting ongoing operations and special needs.
2012 Officers of the Board
Kathy Osborne, President
Barbara Botsch, Vice President
Will Valentine, Treasurer
Irv Jenkins, Secretary