Meet Our New Museum Manager

Carla (Nuxoll) Wilkins became the new manager of the Historical Museum, Welcome Center, and Gift Shop last November. Prior to that she was the Grangeville Outreach Coordinator for Lewis Clark State College for nine years. In this interview she describes her vision for the future of the Historical Museum.

What are your connections to St. Gertrude’s? 
The sisters and Monastery have always been part of my life. I was taught by them both in Greencreek and Cottonwood, I spent time with them at St. Mary’s Hospital over the thirty years my mom worked as a nurse there, I graduated from the high school the sisters built, and Sister Theresa Dvorak taught my children at Sts. Peter & Paul School in Grangeville. I also had two great aunts at the Monastery: Sister Ildephonse Nuxoll and Sister Andrea Koepl. When the job became available, it felt like a natural fit. 

What excites you about this position?  
The museum is bright, clean, spacious, and has been beautifully curated by professionals — and it shows! Not just a collection of artifacts, it is arranged to tell the stories of the area. The sisters have been diligent about preserving this history and it is a joy to be part of that. I learn something interesting every single day and I don’t see that ending. It is a pleasure to work in an environment where kindness is a core value.

What are your goals for the Museum and Gift Shop? 
This is a museum telling our community stories and I would like to have an army of volunteers to help articulate them. I would like to have docents to give personalized tours, artists to restore frames and lend artistic touches elsewhere, teachers to plan and execute hands-on exhibits for children, woodworkers to build custom items for the Gift Shop, and volunteers to staff the Gift Shop and to answer tourist questions.  

I would like more accessibility for children and to those with sight issues. I am recording 60-second audio clips of the stories and embedding them in QR codes. Visitors use their smart phones to scan the code and a link pops up that plays the story. 

I would like the Gift Shop to carry more religious items and unusual and handmade items from the Prairie — things you can’t find on Amazon. The Museum and Gift Shop will be a must-see destination for guests who are visiting the area. 

What is your favorite part of the Museum? 
My favorite are the stories expressed in the exhibits. Right now I am captivated by the story of the original sisters: how they were cloistered in Switzerland with the government interfering to the point of not allowing them to elect a new abbess or take in new novices. They decided to send three sisters to Oregon. These sisters — completely sheltered from the outside world — cross an ocean and then a continent. There are fascinating details of that story: the Jesuits had already been kicked out of Switzerland, one of the sisters chosen to go wept at the thought of leaving,  and how Rome had to give the three dispensations to leave the cloistered convent. Then once they got to Oregon, they were joined by girls as young as 15 who traveled alone from Switzerland and Germany. The stories in every exhibit are interesting.  

The Historical Museum at St. Gertrude is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To learn more, visit historicalmuseumatstgertrude.org or call 208-962-2054.

To better tell the stories of our region, an extensive five-year remodel of the exhibits (including a kids’ section) was just completed.