Iowans will have an opportunity to bring a traveling exhibit from the world-renowned Smithsonian Institution to their communities next year.
“Spark! Places of Innovation” will come to Iowa in 2024 through a partnership between the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street program, the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Humanities Council. The exhibition uses photographs, engaging interactives, videos and augmented reality to explore the unique combination of places, people and circumstances that sparks innovation and reveals why it flourishes in some rural places but not others.
“Bringing the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street exhibition to the state delivers new opportunities for Iowans,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “This exhibition will give our rural communities and students a chance to access this Smithsonian-quality experience that can connect students to interdisciplinary learning programs – history, humanities, culture, arts, science, and innovation.”
Since 2021, Kramer has served as Co-Chair of the Creativity & Innovation Task Force of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council along with Yen Verhoeven, CEO of Qi Learning. This accomplishes the goal to reach more rural students with interactive programming so they, too, can become engaged in skill-development programs like STEAM, National History Day, and other out-of-classroom learning that occurs in museums and cultural learning centers.
“Iowans have a strong connection to the history of our state,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “We encourage them to look into hosting this exhibit and explore the many different ways they can generate and adopt innovative ideas to strengthen their communities.”
The exhibition will serve as a springboard for local programming in the humanities, sciences and arts that inspire people to learn how innovation has impacted their communities and how they may become innovators themselves.
In addition, Iowa communities can become part of the exhibit by contacting the Smithsonian and sharing their experiences with a wide range of possibilities, including: Creating solutions to common rural community challenges; innovating or inventing a new tool or craft; developing cultural programming, art spaces, social justice initiatives, or sparking transformative conversations between people who'd normally not engage with each other. Technological, social, cultural, artistic, or a combination of all of these – innovation is as unique as each community and the Smithsonian would like to hear from Iowans.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its divisions – the State Historical Society of Iowa, including the State Historic Preservation Office; the Iowa Arts Council; the Iowa Humanities Council; and Produce Iowa-State Office of Film & Media – empower Iowans to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting to the people, places and points of pride that define our state.