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Barry Gough

Barry Gough and the Captain Robert Gray Medal

¬September 24, 2016

Citation by John C. Hughes, Chief Historian, Legacy Washington, Office of the Secretary of State, Olympia, Washington

The Washington State Historical Society today presents awards for achievements accomplished during 2015—or in the case of the Robert Gray Medal, our highest honor, for lifetime achievement.

In 1968, the Washington State Historical Society established the Robert Gray Medal. It is named in honor of the Boston fur trader who between 1790 and 1793 was the first American to explore what is now the coast of Washington State, and helped establish America’s claim to territory in the Pacific Northwest. Grays Harbor bears his name, and the Columbia River was named for either his ship or his country—perhaps both.

The award recognizes distinguished and long-term contributions to Pacific Northwest History through teaching, writing, research, local historical society work or historic preservation.

The Robert Gray Medal is presented this year to a highly respected maritime historian, Barry Gough.

For most of his life as a professional historian and educator, including his studies in British admiralty and hydro-graphic records in England, Barry Gough has been examining the textures of our coastal history. Born in Victoria, British Columbia, Dr. Gough is only the second Canadian to win the Robert Gray Medal.

Dr. Gough’s publications are many, and examine principally the history of rivers, the early documents of Columbia River history, and the records of the North West Company.

His trilogy of books examining the Oregon Boundary question, the San Juan Islands dispute and early British and Spanish documents provided a pioneering, dispassionate and scholarly overview of British influences in our coastal history.

Dr. Gough’s career as an educator began in 1968 when he joined the faculty of Western Washington University as an assistant professor of history.

His academic pursuits united his efforts with colleagues in the Geography and Political Science departments.

He co-founded the Center for Canadian-American Studies.

With James Scott, he became co-director of the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies.

Allied to this, a Northwest Archives Center was established, ensuring that Bellingham became a regional center of the State Archives, which are recognized as among the finest in America.

He enriched the special collections of Western Washington University before accepting appointment in Waterloo, Ontario, at Wilfrid Laurier University.

His contacts with scholars across Canada and the U.S. gave way to an exchange program with the University of Maine, Orono, and his service as chairman of the Joint Committee of the American & Canadian Historical Societies further benefited cooperative scholarship between our two countries.

Barry Gough’s books have received prizes in the United States, the U.K. and Canada. He was honored in Spain for his contribution to the memorial to the Spanish navigator Alcala Galiano.

He won the Mountbatten Literary Award in 2015, the S.S. Beaver Medal for Maritime Excellence, and the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia’s medal, to name just a few of his previous accolades.

David Nicandri, our former director, says of Barry that even in ‘retirement,’ his scholarship productivity is prodigious. David was honored that Gough agreed to include an essay in the recent anthology that was the companion volume to the “Arctic Ambitions” exhibition, and says “his learned stature lent great weight to that venture.”

Dr. Gough is now editing the manuscript journal of the surgeon-naturalist Archibald Menzies on the George Vancouver expedition of 1791 to 1795.

Dr. Gough, for a lifetime dedicated to Pacific Northwest maritime history and scholarship, we are pleased to present you today with the Robert Gray Medal, our highest honor.