Connecting people through the power of history and culture

Annette Atkins, a longtime board member of the Stearns History Museum, recently received the 2020 Zapp Historian Award. The honor recognizes her efforts in promoting the rich history of Stearns County and Central Minnesota.

Each year the Museum presents the award to someone who has made a significant contribution to the history and culture of Stearns County. Atkins, the county’s historian laureate, has spent most of her life advocating local and state history. First, as a history and humanities professor at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict for 34 years. Also, as a public historian, transforming serious research into compelling stories.

Atkins has written several articles and books, including Creating Minnesota: A History from the Inside Out, an innovative state history, and Challenging Women Since 1913, a history of the College of St. Benedict and women’s higher education. She speaks at professional meetings and events and conducts writing workshops. She also was an on-air historian on Minnesota Public Radio for five years.

“Annette has a real gift of descriptive and tantalizing stories that make the people of Stearns County proud of and interested in visiting our wonderful museum,” said Dorraine Larison, the Museum’s board chair. “She works tirelessly to engage the citizens of Minnesota in their own state and local history and all it has to offer. Her work boosts the mission of the Stearns History Museum – to connect people through the power of history and culture.”

Atkins recently ended more than 14 years of service to the Stearns History Museum’s Board of Directors. She now leads the Museum’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee and is a member of the Emeritus and Honorary Councils of the Minnesota Historical Society.

The award is named in honor of the Zapp Family, who was instrumental in securing funds to build the Stearns History Museum during the early 1980s. Previous recipients include Keith Maurer, Robert Gambrino, Marilyn Brinkman, and Bill Morgan.