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State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa's Mobile Museum Begins Second Year

Apr 30, 2018

DES MOINES – Now that spring has sprung, the State Historical Society of Iowa's "Iowa History 101" mobile museum is on the road again, resuming its three-year mission to visit all 99 Iowa counties by the end of next year.

Launched in 2017, the 300-square-foot museum is housed in a bright-blue, custom-built Winnebago that travels the state's highways and back roads to share stories from Iowa's past. It visits schools, libraries, local museums, community festivals, county fairs and other gathering places to show Iowans multi-media presentations and artifacts from the historical society's collection.

"The mobile museum 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. "It's one of the best ways we can share the history of Iowa with people in their own communities."

Like a visit to a grandparents' attic, the mobile museum 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 mobile museum'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 wanted new ways to access the State Historical Museum’s resources.

Last year, the mobile museum kicked off its three-year mission by traveling more than 8,000 miles to 45 towns in 36 Iowa counties, serving more than 24,000 Iowans.

View a list of communities it has already visited or is scheduled to visit this year.

Iowans can request the Iowa History 101 mobile museum to visit communities. A list of tips to consider when booking the mobile museum follows:

  • Before requesting a visit, have a preferred date(s) and alternate date(s) ready.
  • Consider requesting the mobile museum to be a part of a larger community event or festival.
  • Requesting a visit does not guarantee booking.

The traveling exhibition – 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” exhibit offerings. 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.