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State Historical Society of Iowa’s online collection of educational materials tops 3 million views

Oct 31, 2022

Iowa educators are using a new tool to teach Iowa history, and it’s catching on in classrooms across the state.

A special online collection of history-education materials has been viewed more than 3 million times since the State Historical Society of Iowa started curating it five years ago.

The Primary Source Sets – photos, maps, documents, audio recordings and even cartoons – cover more than 65 broad topics about Iowa and its role in the broader sweep of national and world history, including the Underground Railroad, women’s suffrage, the Cold War and the Iowa Caucuses. The collection includes materials from the State Historical Society of Iowa as well as the Library of Congress, which has also supported the project with two major grants.

The collection surpassed 3 million views earlier this month, in the middle of National Arts & Humanities Month.

“Over the years, the State Historical Society of Iowa has created a rich repository of teaching resources that help students explore Iowa history from local, regional and national perspectives,” said Vivian Awumey, who manages education and outreach programs at the Library of Congress. “The Library of Congress staff commends the State Historical Society of Iowa for effectively meeting Iowa teachers’ need for quality teaching materials, as witnessed by the 3 million downloads of the primary source sets, guides and kits it has created under the Teaching with Primary Sources program.”

Experts at the historical society, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, launched the project in 2017 to help Iowa teachers explore history with a new generation of K-12 students. Teachers can search the collection to find specific topics and materials that align with the Iowa Core Content Standards for Social Studies.

Each Primary Source Set includes a series of questions to help students to investigate facts, evaluate evidence and think critically about complex issues.

“The Primary Source Sets have revolutionized the way I teach social studies methods,” said Dr. Chad William Timm, an associate professor of teacher education at Simpson College. "I can point my students to examples of how to integrate primary-source work into units designed around good, compelling and supporting questions.”

The Primary Sources Sets are part of an array of online and virtual educational resources from the State Historical Society of Iowa, including “Iowa History 101” webinars, an online Iowa History Book Club and various Goldie’s Kids Club activities for children and families. All of the society’s educational resources are free to access and download for educators, students, families and lifelong learners.

The society also updated and expanded its Iowa History Online Collections Catalog, which offers Iowans and others unprecedented access to more than 200 million pieces of history in the state’s collection.

“We want to empower teachers, students and families across the state to learn more about Iowa history and are providing them with a variety of resources to achieve this,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “We were serving Iowans online before the demand for remote learning and online programs accelerated during the past two years, and now we are well positioned to continue our role as a go-to resource for Iowa history education.” 

For more information about any of these resources, please visit

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.