California Retiree Helps Launch The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude into ‘Digital Age’
A glimpse of California license plates cruising across the Camas Prairie might raise some eyebrows among local folks, but at The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude it means help is on the way.
At least four times a year, Santa Cruz resident Sandy Pearsall, 59, loads up her rig, buckles in her beloved Chihuahua and makes the 900-mile drive to Cottonwood, ID, to volunteer at The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude. Sandy with her chihuahua, Chiquitita.
While she often spends her time polishing exhibit cases or taking inventory of artifacts, this spring’s project will have a much more long-range impact by taking the museum’s collection into the “digital age”. 
During her month-long “volunteer vacation”, Pearsall is helping museum staff create an electronic photo archive to preserve digital images of thousands of artifacts. She has even purchased and donated a brand-new computer to house the digital archive and burn CDs of the collection.
“Each artifact tells the story of the people who owned it,” says Pearsall. “But history passes away with people. It’s important to hold onto that history, to honor these lives and stories. Museums are a wonderful way to do that.” 
With 70,000 acquisitioned artifacts—including early medical equipment, antique weapons, traditional farming tools and kitchen utensils, as well as European and Asian antiques and artwork from the Rhoades Emmanuel Memorial Gallery—this is no short-term project. Fortunately, Pearsall plans return trips to continue the archiving process. 
But how did a retired resources management analyst from California get so involved with the historical museum on the prairie in the first place?
Sandy Pearsall positions a can of Old Dutch baking powder under bright lights, then assigns an archive number before photographing the artifact for an electronic archive.“The first time I visited the museum was in 1972 when it was housed in the basement of the high school,” Pearsall recalls. “I walked in and there was this little lady, Sister Alfreda, knee-deep in artifacts. She loved them so much and she could tell a fascinating story about each piece. It was living Idaho history.”
“The next time I visited was 30 years later in 2002,” she says. “I was just awestruck by the building, the exhibit cases, the beautiful Asian and European antiques. It’s been fun to watch the museum grow. It’s still growing.”
She’s enjoyed being a part of that growth through good old-fashioned elbow grease and more. Lucky for the museum, her former employer has supported her efforts as well. 
“My company matches my donations dollar for dollar,” says Pearsall, who retired last year from the research department of CTB McGraw Hill, an educational publisher. “And if I volunteer for at least 60 hours a year, the museum is eligible for a ‘work grant’. That gives my support for the museum more impact.”Sandy Pearsall selects an artifact from the exhibit of an early prairie kitchen at The Historical Museum.
Pearsall says that the joy of being retired is that her time is her own. “I can spend it doing things that make a difference.”
When it comes to preserving the past, time is an important theme for Pearsall. “My family has a clock from Scotland that is older than this country. Many kids today probably don’t even realize there was a time when you had to wind clocks. I think it’s important to preserve these pieces of history that can teach kids today about times past.”
If you would like to volunteer or support the museum’s new photo archives, please contact The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, 465 Keuterville Road, Cottonwood, ID, 83522, by calling (208) 962-2050 or emailing

Cottonwood, Idaho 83522



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503 King St.
P.O. Box 157
Cottonwood, ID 83522-0157
Fax 208-962-7131
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