Trustee Hope Benedict and Executive Director Katherine Kirk

Esteemed Historian and Idaho Heritage Trustee Hope Benedict Honored with Esto Perpetua Award from Idaho State Historical Society

Hope Benedict will be honored with an Esto Perpetua Award from the Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) at a ceremony taking place on June 5th. The Esto Perpetua Awards, taken from Idaho’s Latin motto meaning “Let it be perpetual”, have been given out yearly since 1999 in order to “recognize people and organizations who have preserved and promoted Idaho’s history through professional accomplishments, public service or volunteerism, and philanthropy.” Any number of Dr. Benedict’s lengthy list of accomplishments would be worthy of such an award, and we would like to recognize some of her work with the Lemhi County Historical Society and Museum, her academic career, and her recent publication of Living with the Landscape; Mining, Ranching, and Conservation in the American West (2022).

Dr. Benedict is one of IHT’s most recent additions to our board of trustees, but she is far from an unfamiliar face in academic and preservation circles. IHT is lucky to have someone with her wide-ranging knowledge and experience, infectious enthusiasm for local, regional, and national history, and genuine kindness and compassion on our board. Dr. Benedict became acquainted with IHT through her work with the Lemhi County Historical Society and Museum, as well as her position as an Idaho State Historical Society Trustee. Dr. Benedict is excited to expand the way IHT looks at preserving state and local history.

Born and raised in Salmon, Idaho, Dr. Benedict’s passion for history stems from family tours around the county, during which her father explained local mining, ranching, and community heritage. These experiences were reinforced by a captivating set of teachers who inspired her to continue studying history throughout her academic career. Her initial area of study was Tudor history, though she would eventually shift her degree focus to US history and the formation of the American West. Her doctoral dissertation for the University of Oregon, “Place and Community in the Mining West: Lemhi County, Idaho, 1866-1929,” concentrated on the development of a sense of place in communities whose primary economy was based on extractive industry.  In her earliest teaching years, she taught English and US history as an adjunct professor at Boise State University. Later, Dr. Benedict served as an assistant professor at both Boise State and Idaho State Universities. She taught in Skidmore College’s University Without Walls and, since 2012, has been an adjunct faculty member in ISU’s Department of History.

2020 saw the conclusion of Dr. Benedict’s 12-year term as the Idaho State Historical Society’s Trustee representing District 7, though she remains involved as a member of the Foundation for Idaho History Board and was part of the Old Penitentiary Reimagining Advisory Committee. This same year, Dr. Benedict was named Idaho Business Review’s Woman of the Year, which “recognizes women who are shaping Idaho’s economic and community well-being through their outstanding leadership, mentoring efforts, and community involvement. The Idaho Humanities Council recognized her and Dr. Mary Reed with their Outstanding Achievement in the Idaho Humanities Award in 2020.  As of this writing, Dr. Benedict is officially involved with the Foundation for Idaho History, the Advisory Council for the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center, the Governor’s Lewis & Clark Trail Committee, President and Volunteer Director of the Lemhi County Historical Society and Museum, in addition to her service to IHT.

As President and Volunteer Director for LCHS, Dr. Benedict was instrumental in raising funds to purchase the Salmon Grange, and it has been in use consistently for educational presentations, society luncheons, and by other nonprofit groups ever since. She established Lemhi County History Month and eventually partnered with the Sacajawea Center on this and other historical programs for the community.  She also established a campaign to purchase the Salmon Public Library Building, which is now a research center and constantly evolving exhibit showcasing the history of regional rivers, fish, and wildlife. Additional programs, Dr. Benedict helped bring to Lemhi County include the Smithsonian exhibit, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America” and “In Good Faith,” a Shoshone history produced by Washington State University, “Our Past, Our Future, Our Fish”, a panel on fish, dams, community, and sense of place, and the panel discussion “2020: Where Do We Go from Here?” It is no surprise, then, given Dr. Benedict’s incredible work, dedication, and leadership, that LCHS received the Sister Alfreda Award in 2011, Idaho’s most prestigious award for excellence in history.

As if that were not enough, Hope’s leadership and inspiration established the Lemhi County Historical Society Luncheon Program. Dr. Terry Magoon, along with Mike Crosby, who recently published an expansion and clarification of  George E. Shoup’s History of Early Lemhi County was “struck by the vitality at the monthly LCHS luncheons” and attributes their success to Hope’s ability to attract and engage generations of families from across the Lemhi and Salmon River valleys.  Dr. Magoon, also noted that the growing photograph collection that Dr. Benedict has worked to expand and digitize at the LCHS enhanced his publication.  As for the photographs, Dr. Benedict has long campaigned for community members to donate their photo collections, in an effort to preserve and promote local and regional history and demonstrate its continuing relevance. She also continues to work on her own research and in November of 2022, Dr. Benedict completed her eleven-year history project, culminating in the publication of Living with the Landscape: Mining, Ranching, and Conservation in the American West, which will serve as a resource for future work on Lemhi County and Idaho history.

This is far from an exhaustive list of Dr. Benedict’s notable contributions, which also include a number of published books, academic papers, and other involvements. With such a wealth of accomplishments, it might be easy to forget how generous Dr. Benedict is with her time and how lovely she is as a person. She freely shares her knowledge and expertise, encourages others to find their voice, engenders a sense of community, and is a credit to her family, community, and the State of Idaho. IHT is thrilled to be associated with her, and we are equally excited to celebrate her in June.

Learn more about the Esto Perpetua Awards, how to purchase tickets for the ceremony, and further information about the Idaho State Historical Society here, and we hope to see you there!

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