Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

About the Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy for Local History

Submission Guidelines

Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy for Local History | Wisconsin Historical Society
Enlarge Quarter-length tudio portrait of Reuben Gold Thwaites.

        Reuben Gold Thwaites

Quarter-length studio portrait of Reuben Gold Thwaites,second Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Thwaites initiated the affiliation program 120 years ago, the first such program nationwide. View the original source document: WHI 4158

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


Only affiliates in good standing with the Wisconsin Historical Society may be nominated for the award. An affiliate 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

An affiliate selected to receive the Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy must demonstrate the excellence of its achievements in collecting, preserving and sharing history.

Collecting and preserving history may include acquisition and preservation 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, historical 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 and professional standards
  • Partnering with other community organizations to promote history

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


In honor of the 120th anniversarhy of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Affiliation program first announced in 1898, Wisconsin's Semi-Centennial, the Wisconsin Historical Society will be presenting a $120 gift card from Gaylord Archival in conjunction with the Reuben Gold Thwaites Trophy itself.

Due Date

March 15 of each year (postmarked or delivered)

How to Apply

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

  • The name of the affiliated historical organization
  • The name and address of the president of the affiliate
  • 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 - Room 455
Madison, WI 53706

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.

                                                Past Award Winners

                            2017 - Port Washington Historical Society

2016 - Oulu Historical Society                       2015 - Rock County Historical Society

  • 2014 — Evansville Grove Society

  • 2013 — De Pere Historical Society

  • 2012 — Sheboygan Historical Society

  • 2011 — Bay View Historical Society

  • 2010 — Dunn County Historical Society

  • 2009 — Heritage Military Music Foundation

  • 2008 — No trophy conferred

  • 2007 — Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society

  • 2006 — Chippewa Valley Museum

  • 2005 — Burnett County Historical Society

  • 2004 — Wisconsin Marine Historical Society

  • 2003 — Fort Atkinson Historical Society

  • 2002 — DeForest Historical Society

  • 2001 — Mount Horeb Area Historical Society

  • 2000 — Watertown Historical Society

  • 1999 — Two Rivers Historical Society

  • 1998 — New Berlin Historical Society

  • 1997 — Cedarburg Cultural Center

  • 1996 — Portage County Historical Society

  • 1995 — Merrill Historical Society

  • 1994 — McFarland Historical Society

  • 1993 — Vernon County Historical Society

  • 1992 — Mazomanie Historical Society

  • 1991 — Clear Lake Historical Society

  • 1990 — Manitowoc County Historical Society

  • 1989 — Marathon County Historical Society

  • 1988 — Kenosha County Historical Society

  • 1987 — Wisconsin Slovak Historical Society

  • 1986 — Bay View Historical Society

  • 1985 — Wauwatosa Historical Society

  • 1984 — Manitowoc Maritime Museum

  • 1983 — New Holstein Historical Society

  • 1982 — La Crosse County Historical Society

  • 1981 — Outagamie County Historical Society

  • 1980 — Waukesha County Historical Society

  • 1979 — Chippewa Valley Museum

  • 1978 — St. Croix County Historical Society

  • 1977 — Hawks Inn Historical Society

  • 1976 — Brown County Historical Society

  • 1975 — Ripon Historical Society

  • 1974 — Menomonee Falls Historical Society

  • 1973 — Barron County Historical Society

  • 1972 — Fort Atkinson Historical Society

  • 1971 — Rock County Historical Society

  • 1970 — Dunn County Historical Society

  • 1969 — Ozaukee County Historical Society

  • 1968 — Beloit Historical Society

  • 1967 — Milwaukee County Historical Society

  • 1966 — Wild Rose Historical Society

  • 1965 — Watertown Historical Society

  • 1964 — Fond du Lac County Historical Society

  • 1963 — Oconto County Historical Society

  • 1962 — South Wood County Historical Society

  • 1961 — Douglas County Historical Society

  • 1960 — Northland Historical Society

  • 1959 — Menasha Historical Society

  • 1958 — Marathon County Historical Society

Have Questions?

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