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State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Society's Mobile Museum Completes 3-Year Tour of Iowa's 99 Counties

Nov 1, 2019

The State Historical Society of Iowa's "History on the Move" mobile museum completed its 3-year tour of Iowa's 99 counties Thursday during a visit to Osceola.

The museum on wheels traveled the state's highways and back roads the past three years in a bright blue, custom-built Winnebago that housed a 300-square-foot exhibition called "Iowa History 101." More than 64,000 people toured the exhibition during its 3-year tour and learned about Iowa's past through artifacts from the State Historical Society of Iowa's permanent collection.

"Three years ago, we set a goal to provide Iowans in all 99 counties with a history experience through the mobile museum, and we are proud that we achieved it today in Osceola," State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. "This was an ambitious project and we are grateful to our community hosts and generous sponsors who helped make it happen."

The mobile museum received major support from EMC Insurance Companies, Winnebago, Casey's General Stores and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Like a visit to a grandparent's attic, the exhibition unpacked 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 visited all 99 Iowa counties over the course of three years, beginning in 2017 with stops at schools, libraries, local museums, community festivals, county fairs and other places where Iowans gather.

More than 11,400 students from 63 Iowa schools and school districts visited the exhibition. School visits connected local history to statewide history and were tailored to meet Iowa Core Social Studies standards for Iowa history. Students and teachers made connections with local history through supplementary resources, including an Iowa trivia game that connected the exhibition to the classroom.

The traveling exhibition is one of a trio of “Iowa History 101” exhibitions. 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.

More information is available at or 515-281-5111.

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.