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State Historical Society of Iowa

Hollywood in the Heartland

From silent films in the early 1900s to today, Iowa’s presence on the silver screen is notable. Discover how film studios brought the work of Iowa-born writers to theaters across the country. Writers include Keosauqua’s Phil Stong who wrote State Fair which was made into two films featuring the Iowa State Fair as its setting, and Mason City’s Meredith Willson’s The Music Man which furthered Iowa’s reputation as a subject for films.

Other features include props from Norman Lear’s Cold Turkey made in Greenfield and Winterset and overviews of the popular films, Field of Dreams and The Bridges of Madison County. Guests can also consider the beauty and importance of individual theaters both in terms of architecture and their meaning within local communities.

Finally, meet the Iowans who have achieved success on-screen and behind the scenes.

Tour the Exhibit

*Please note that all borrowed artifacts you see in the virtual tour have been returned to their owners and are no longer on view. 


  • Learn about African American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux’s Iowa connection
  • See early 20th century film projectors
  • Sit in authentic 1950-era theater seats
  • Enjoy film clips and commentary on how Hollywood has depicted Iowa in iconic films