DES MOINES – In a lot of Iowa towns, local historians know about everything that has happened there since the early 1800s. They are walking encyclopedias of familiar names and dates and stories.
But even the sharpest historians can benefit from the collective wisdom of the Local History Network, a new statewide program from the State Historical Society of Iowa. It’s designed to help historical organizations access training opportunities and professional expertise from other community-history groups and the State Historical Society, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.
Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg helped launch the Local History Network today at the State Capitol. He was a history student at Central College when he interviewed his grandfather, Glenn Gregg of Hawarden, about his service during World War II.
“That’s the kind of real-world connection you can’t find in most textbooks,” said Gregg, who donated an audio recording of his grandfather’s interview to the Hawarden Public Library. “In museums, libraries and historical societies across the state, Iowans take care of the artifacts and documents that tell the stories of who we are and how we got here. The Local History Network offers people tools to save and share those stories for future generations, just as earlier generations have done for us.”
The State Historical Society has already identified more than 200 local and county historical societies to join the new network and encourages other groups to sign up as well. Participation is free and open to any staff and volunteers of Iowa organizations that preserve history, including local and county historical societies, history museums, libraries, archives, genealogical societies and other history groups.
The Local History Network serves as an informational hub where historians can learn about best practices, funding opportunities and other industry news. Participants can request technical assistance from State Historical Society staff about maintaining collections, creating exhibits, planning educational programs and more. The network also offers online toolkits to guide participants through specific challenges, from caring for textiles to writing grants.
The Local History Network is the latest addition to the State Historical Society’s array of statewide programs, including Historical Resource Development Grants, artifact loans, and preservation assistance through the National Register of Historic Places.
These free and reliable resources were developed in response to feedback the State Historical Society gathered during statewide listening sessions over the last few years. Historians across the state asked for help to strengthen their local organizations – museums, libraries and the like – and to ensure their long-term sustainability. The Local History Network was developed to address those needs, especially since most historical organizations operate on minimal budgets with dedicated volunteers.
“By making our resources, grants and expertise more accessible through the Local History Network, the State Historical Society looks forward to being a responsive and relevant statewide partner,” State Historical Society Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “We recognize how important history is to the identity of our fellow Iowans and how it enriches our communities now and into the future.”
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.