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State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa Mobile Museum to Visit Iowa State Fair

Jul 31, 2018

DES MOINES – The Iowa State Fair will get a little more historic when the State Historical Society of Iowa's mobile museum visits the Fairgrounds Aug. 13-19.

The "History on the Move" mobile museum is housed in a bright blue, custom-built Winnebago that travels the state's highways and back roads to share stories from the past. The museum on wheels currently houses a 300-square-foot exhibition called "Iowa History 101" and is filled with artifacts from the State Historical Society's collection. Fairgoers can take free self-guided tours of the exhibit from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 13-19 on Rock Island Avenue at the Fairgrounds.

"This exhibition shares some of the essential stories that every Iowan should know about who we are and what we've achieved since Iowa became a state more than 170 years ago," State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. "We're delighted to bring this traveling exhibition to the Iowa State Fair, and we encourage all Iowans to learn about our state's rich heritage."

Like a visit to a grandparent's attic, the exhibition unpacks stories of Iowa's past with nearly 50 artifacts, including:

  • battered miner's cap worn by Carl Coghlan, a Marion County coal miner
  • 1917 prototype of the state flag designed by Dixie Cornell Gebhardt of Knoxville
  • pen Gov. William Harding used to ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote
  • basketball jersey Lynne Lorenzen wore during her glory days at Ventura High School
  • Olympic medal from sprinter Natasha Kaiser-Brown of Des Moines
  • patch from a spacesuit worn by astronaut Peggy Whitson of Beaconsfield
  • As a bonus, Mike Wolfe, the creator and star of the hit television series “American Pickers,” lent his voice and video talents to the exhibition’s multimedia elements. A native of Le Claire, Wolfe has a long-standing interest in history and a knack for using artifacts to unlock its stories.

The idea for the mobile museum emerged in 2014 from a series of community conversations organized by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the State Historical Society. Iowans who care deeply about history made it clear they want new ways to access the State Historical Museum’s resources.

Accordingly, the 38-foot Winnebago will visit all 99 Iowa counties over the course of three years, from 2017 through 2019, with stops at schools, libraries, local museums, community festivals, county fairs and other places where Iowans gather. Anyone who would like to request a visit can find the details online at, along with an updated schedule. (Follow the mobile museum's statewide journey on Facebook at

The traveling exhibition – which is sponsored by EMC Insurance Companies, Casey's General Stores and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – is one of a trio of “Iowa History 101” shows. Visitors to the State Historical Museum in Des Moines can find both a traditional museum exhibition, plus an interactive "Hands-On History" gallery designed especially for children.

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.