Sister Mary Alfreda Elsensohn is one of Idaho’s most important historians. She meticulously documented the early pioneer experience in north central Idaho, including the lives and lifestyle of area Chinese settlers.
In 1931, Elsensohn created a museum in the attic of St. Gertrude’s Academy in Cottonwood to share things she’d collected. Next week people can travel back to that place and time in guided tours at the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude where a replica of the museum was completed in a remodel last spring.
“It really puts people in the environment, you’re not standing on the other side of the glass or railing, you’re in the environment,” said Theresa Henson, creative services director at the Monastery of St. Gertrude.
Keith Petersen, former Idaho State Historian and an adviser on the creation of the exhibit, will lead the tours and share the history of the museum, which evolved from a collection of curiosities into a curated display.
The attic is as it was, down to bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Items on display include a preserved two-headed piglet that didn’t survive birth (very popular with kids, Henson said) and a taxidermied mountain goat.
“Sister Elsensohn had her students doing taxidermy on animals in the region.”
There are also a few Chinese artifacts collected from area miners, which helped to share Chinese culture with other pioneers at the time, Henson said.
The remodel is part of a series of displays being created. Others to come include an exhibit on Idaho County’s interesting characters and a history of local people.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Open house tour and presentation of replica of Sister Alfreda Elsensohn’s Attic Museum
WHEN: 2 and 7 p.m. next Thursday
WHERE: Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood
OF NOTE: The exhibit is also open during regular hours, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Admission is $6 adults, $3 children, and free ages 6 and younger.
By Jennifer K. Bauer