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Sherman County Historical Society and Museum
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And The Winner Is . . .
by Ron Brentano
Sherman County Historical Society
The Plow, November 1994

ovember, 1994 - Once a year, an impressive body of distinguished and committed historians and individuals assemble at the headquarters of the American Association for State and Local History to review nearly one hundred and fifty carefully screened award nominations vying for national recognition of their activities and programs.

Located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH is the umbrella organization for the almost 10,000 historical organizations existing in the United States and Canada. Since its founding in 1940, AASLH has provided exceptional professional enhancement programs and services including conferences, publications, recognition through its awards program, and technical assistance. Through a well organized network of state and regional chairs, the awards program seeks out those organizations whose work over the past couple of years is worthy of national recognition.

The awards program specifically seeks out projects that have contributed to the preservation of state or local history, and includes such diverse areas as audio-visual programs, publications, recordings, exhibits and traveling exhibits, preservation projects, genealogical efforts, the creation of a new museum, tour programs and archaeology projects. Both organizations and individuals are recognized.

Dr. Albert B. Corey, founding member of AASLH, state historian for New York, and one-time president of the Association, was particularly sympathetic to the needs and interests of small museums. In 1864, Dr. Corey's friends established a fund in his memory to honor small, primarily volunteer-managed organizations in the United States and Canada. This award is held in extremely high esteem and is given once a year, occasionally not at all, to only one outstanding organization. The rules governing the Corey Award are outlined in the official awards program guidelines and specifically state, "the Corey Award is reserved for very deserving small, primarily volunteer-operated organizations...The award is designed to recognize a small historical organization that best displays the qualities of vigor, scholarship and imagination in its work, and shall be given only once to any organization. The winner will be selected from organizations nominated for an Award of Merit or Certificate of Commendation." Sherman County Historical Society was originally nominated for a Certificate of Commendation. Your faithful regional chairman [Brentano] pleaded for an Award of Merit and this was achieved. The Corey Award then superseded all previous awards as the Corey Award is given in lieu of all other categories of awards. 

Further rules governing the program make the Corey Award process seem almost medieval - "To nominate an organization for the Corey Award, the chair must fill out both the regular nomination form...and a special Corey Award form...Fifteen copies of the Corey Award nomination form should be brought to the meeting. The chair presenting the nomination should not indicate to the committee members that this nominee will be discussed later as a Corey Award nominee...After the committee has considered all nominees for Certificate of Commendation and Award of Merit, it will begin discussion of Corey Award nominations." So the awards committee has no idea until the end of the three days of deliberations that there is a nomination for the Corey Award. The regional chair responsible for the Corey Award nominations then placed in the position of giving an oral presentation in defense of the nomination and becoming a strong advocate for the award. At the end of what I call "the interrogation period," the entire committee votes on its options: to grant the Corey Award to one of perhaps two or more competing nominations, or to deny the award entirely.

After reviewing Sherman County Historical Society's numerous extraordinary achievements described in the nomination, the distinguished panel, including AASLH Executive Director and CEO Patricia Gordon Michael, voted unanimously and with great satisfaction to grant the Corey Award. 

Founded in 1940, AASLH's first annual meeting in the far west was conducted in Portland, Oregon in 1950 and was co-hosted by the Oregon Historical Society and Reed College. OHS's director Lancaster Pollard served as the arrangements chair...It wasn't until 1971 that AASLH was to visit Oregon again--my initiation to AASLH. As an OHS staff member [registrar], I participated on a panel concerning registration and assisted with some of the tours...Perhaps little known is the fact that David Duniway, Oregon State Archivist, was not only a founding member of AASLH, but served as its first secretary! From 1976 to 1978, Thomas Vaughn, Executive Director of OHS, served as AASLH's president...Most recently, Daniel Robertson of the Douglas County Museum of History in Roseberg served as national chairman responsible for overseeing the entire awards program. 

1994 was a very good year to further bond Oregon's relationship with our national organization. The newly-created Museum at Warm Springs received an Award of Merit, the Oregon Trail Celebration Committee in Pendleton received a Certificate of Commendation for its 1993 Oregon Trail living history program, Mary Cross of Portland received an Award of Merit for her exemplary book, Treasures from the Trunk and, of course, the well-deserving Sherman County Historical Society was awarded the Albert B. Corey Award. All of this surely reflects on, and inspires, all of Oregon's museums' efforts to preserve our wonderfully rich and fascinating history. Certainly Dr. Corey himself would be very proud to know that an Oregon museum now shares his legacy!

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