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State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Museum of Iowa Gears Up for New Exhibitions

Jun 21, 2018

DES MOINES – This summer you'll find a bumper crop of new exhibits at the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

It begins in July with three new exhibitions – "Visible Vault," "100 Years of John Deere Tractors," and "It Takes an Iowan" – and an update to the popular "Hands-On History" exhibition, which introduces children ages 10 and younger to the history of Iowa.

"Our state’s rich history provides countless opportunities to share stories with Iowans,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “This summer, the State Historical Museum is excited to open these three exhibits and bring these stories to life.”

Here is what visitors can expect to see, including three historic tractors in the museum atrium:

Visible Vault

Opens July 20 for an extended run
Have you ever wondered what museums decide to keep? And why? Take a peek behind the scenes when the museum opens “Visible Vault,” an eclectic showcase of 700-some artifacts chosen from more than 150,000 items in the museum’s collection. What is now a treasure trove of Iowa history started in 1884 with a relatively modest donation of autographs, photos and manuscripts from an Iowan named Charles Aldrich, who became a curator and helped open the museum in 1900.

100 Years of John Deere Tractors

Opens July 20 through Sept. 20
The blacksmith John Deere was literally on the cutting edge of technology when he adapted a steel saw blade to create a plow in 1837. But even he couldn’t have foreseen how his company would change the world. A century after Deere & Co. purchased the manufacturer of the Waterloo Boy tractor in 1918, this new exhibit featuring three tractors – from 1925, 1946 and 1949 – digs into a century of high-tech innovation in the state where tractors were invented.

It Takes An Iowan

Opens July 20 through Sept. 5
In Iowa, it’s easy to take farming for granted. But not all land is so fertile, and not all people can feed the world the way Iowans do. "It Takes An Iowan," a traveling exhibition from the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, focuses on Iowans’ leading role in agriculture. Affiliated with the National Park Service, the Silos & Smokestacks program interprets farm life, agribusiness and rural communities through various sites and events across 37 counties in northeast Iowa. 

Hands-On History

Re-opens July 20 for an extended run
Since it opened in late 2016, the interactive “Hands-On History” gallery has welcomed thousands of kids and families to explore Iowa history with stories, art activities and even a 1957 Iowa-made Oliver tractor that pint-sized farmers can ride. This summer, the popular gallery’s updates include new graphics and props in the miniature farmhouse kitchen, a mural featuring Goldie the Goldfinch (the mascot of Goldie's Kids Club), and new books in the reading area.

Related Events

Help celebrate the museum’s new exhibitions during "Harvesting Iowa's History: Family Fun Day," a series of programs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.on Saturday, July 21. Visitors of all ages can go on a scavenger hunt, sketch bird portraits, listen to nature stories, watch episodes of Iowa Public Television's "Kids Clubhouse" and see a new documentary called "George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life." The programs are free, open to the public and appropriate for all ages.

The "Harvesting Iowa's History" schedule follows:

  • Scavenger Hunt: Find hidden treasures throughout the museum with clues from Goldie the Goldfinch. All day.
  • Bird Portraits: Learn how to sketch birds in the newly remodeled “Hands-On History” gallery from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. 
  • Farm Stories: Listen to stories about nature and agriculture at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
  • IPTV "Kids Clubhouse": Watch back-to-back episodes (23 minutes apiece) from Iowa Public Television’s popular series, about farming, summer fun and nature, starting at 10 a.m.
  • Carver Documentary: Watch IPTV’s new documentary “George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life” at 1:30 p.m.

The State Historical Museum of Iowa is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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.