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Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy for Local History

The Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy is presented annually to one affiliated historical society for continued excellence for its overall service to its community over a period of at least five years. The trophy is held by the winning society for one year. Each affiliated society is invited to review its own performance and submit itself in nomination for the trophy.


Only historical societies affiliated with the Wisconsin Historical Society may be nominated for the award. A society that has previously received the trophy is not eligible to be nominated again for a period of 25 years following its selection to receive the trophy.

Award Criteria

A society selected to receive the Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy must demonstrate the excellence of its achievements in both collecting and preserving history and sharing history with the public.

Collecting and preserving history may include acquisition of museum artifacts, historic buildings, archaeological sites, archival and manuscript records, photographs and visual images, and oral history interviews and recordings. Examples of excellence in collecting and preserving history include:

  • Acquiring historical materials that represent the breadth and diversity of a community's past
  • Preserving historical materials with appropriate climate control, maintaining appropriate collection records, or implementing restoration with appropriate standards
  • Informing a society's members and the public about the need for proper care of historical materials in public or private ownership

Sharing history with the public may include providing historical information and education through public programs, school programs, tours, historic sites and exhibits, historic markers, published material, and broadcast media. Examples of excellence in sharing history include:

  • Employing a variety of services to provide historical education or addressing a variety of historical topics that represent the breadth and diversity of a community's past
  • Providing historical information and education to a variety of audiences
  • Maintaining appropriate standards of historical accuracy based on historical research
  • Partnering with other community organizations to promote history

The impact of a society's overall services on its own community is a major component used in evaluating nominations for the Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy. A small society that provides excellent overall service to a small community can compete with a larger society that provides excellent overall service to a larger community.

Due Date

April 1 of each year (postmarked or delivered)

How to Apply

To nominate a society for the award, the nominator must submit a narrative describing the accomplishments of the affiliated society over at least the previous five years. The narrative may not exceed 10 single-spaced pages. All nominations must include:

  • The name of the society
  • The name and address of the president of the society
  • The name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the author of the nomination

Send applications to:

Local History Thwaites Award
Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State Street
Madison, WI 53706


For more information, contact Rick Bernstein at 608-264-6583 or write to the address above.

Awards are initially reviewed by a committee of judges appointed by the Society and then approved by the Awards Committee of the Board of Curators. The date and presentation of the award will be made at a time and location convenient for the recipient. Employees and members of the Board of Curators of the Wisconsin Historical Society are not eligible to receive awards.

Recent Award Winner

Read about the recent Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy for Local History Work award winner.

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