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State Historical Society of Iowa

Accessibility & Pre-Visit Information

State Historical Building

Updated 1/5/2024

Click here to view Pre-Visit Information for the Centennial Building

Table of Contents

Click a link below to jump to the section

Accessible Parking

Public Transit

General

Mobility

Sensory Sensitivities

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Blind or Low Vision

Alternative Exhibition Text Formats

Translated Tours

Families with Young Children

Other Accommodations & Feedback

 


Accessible Parking

Free parking is available in the parking garage across Grand Avenue, at the northwest corner of East Grand and Pennsylvania avenues. All levels of the garage have accessible parking spots. An elevator is located in the southeast stairwell.

Metered street parking is also available around the building and is payable via the ParkDSM ParkMobile app or at one of the nearby kiosks. One accessible parking space is available on the south side of Locust Street across the street from the building entrance and is indicated by a blue stall marker (stall #220607). Please note the driver’s side opens into the street.

The portico driveway on Locust Street may be used as a drop-off area for passengers. Vehicles must be moved after drop off.

Public Transit

DART operates two free shuttles in Downtown Des Moines: the Link and the D-Line. The D-Line has a fixed route through the East Village, the Iowa State Capitol Complex and Western Gateway Park along Grand Avenue and Locust Street.

DART Paratransit is a door-to-door and wheelchair accessible service available for senior citizens and persons with disabilities who are functionally unable to independently use DART’s Fixed Route bus service. Individuals who want to use Paratransit must fill out an application at the link above. Paratransit riders must call ahead to reserve their trip.

General

First Aid

If you need emergency assistance, please dial 911.

A first aid kit is available at the information desk on the first floor of the museum. Museum and Research Center staff will help direct visitors in the event of an emergency.

Food & Drinks

Vending machines are located on the first level of the museum near the east elevator. Various drinks and snacks are available for purchase using cash or credit card. Straws are available at the information desk upon request. 

Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and drinks, which can be consumed in the museum atrium or on the east side second floor in the area with tables and chairs outside of the Research Center. Please note no food or drinks are allowed in the exhibit galleries or Research Center.

Service Animals

Service animals specially trained to assist a person with a disability are welcome in all museum exhibits and public spaces. Pets and emotional support animals are not considered service animals and are not allowed.

Nearest veterinary services:

All-Pets Hospital
1 mile away; approx. 5-min drive
1330 2nd Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50314
515-262-8535

Mobility

Walkways & Entrances

Visitors may enter the building on Locust Street or on Grand Avenue. Both entrances have power-assist automatic door openers. Note: Currently the interior automatic door at the Locust Street entrance is not working consistently. Please flag down staff at the information desk or call 515-281-5111 for assistance.

If you are entering on Locust Street, please note that the portico tiles may be slippery when wet. There is also a steep hill on Pennsylvania Avenue that goes downhill when traveling from Grand Avenue to Locust Street.

Link to a high resolution image of the exterior view of the State Historical Museum of Iowa entrance on Grand Avenue
State Historical Museum entrance on Grand Avenue
Link to a high resolution image of the exterior view of the State Historical Museum of Iowa entrance on Locust Street
State Historical Museum entrance on Locust Street

 

The Research Center is located on the second floor on the east side of the State Historical Building. There is a dedicated entrance on the terrace off of Grand Avenue on the side where the building is labeled “Historical Library,” which is located across the street from the Iowa Genealogical Society. The Research Center may also be accessed via the first floor east side elevator inside the museum.

Link to a high resolution image of the exterior view of the Research Center entrance from Grand Avenue
Research Center entrance labeled "Historical Library" on Grand Avenue

 

Link to a high resolution image of the exterior view of the Research Center when entering on the terrace
Research Center entrance doors on the terrace

 

Wheelchairs

The building is wheelchair accessible and a limited number of manual wheelchairs are available for visitors to use free of charge. The wheelchair has a 20” seat with a 325 lb. weight capacity. To request a wheelchair, please visit the information desk on the first floor.

Link to a high resolution image of a wheelchair available to borrow
Wheelchair available to borrow

 

There are several tables at the Research Center that are wheelchair accessible, including all computer and scanner tables, and in the large Collaboration Space room. Please note some of the older tables in the space are not wheelchair accessible. Additionally, some library and archival materials may be difficult to reach or access. Please work with the Library and Archives Research Center staff to accommodate your needs.

Seating

A variety of seating is available in the museum exhibits and in the Research Center. Padded seating can be found in the Research Center during open hours and in the reading area of Hands-On History. Visitors will find additional seating in the atrium. 

Lockers

There are 36 lockers available for public use Wednesday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during Research Center open hours. The lockers use any 4-digit code of the user's choosing. Lockers 2, 5 and 8 are wheelchair accessible and use keypads. Instructions are available next to the lockers.

Link to a high resolution image of the three accessible lockers with keypads
Accessible lockers with keypads

Elevators

An elevator located on the north side of the atrium is available to access all three public levels of the museum on the west side of the building. Exhibits are located on the first and second floors. An elevator on the east side of the building provides first floor access to the museum and second floor access to the Research Center. 

All elevators have tactile signs, including raised letters and braille, except the first floor east elevator and the third floor west elevator, which are being replaced soon. The car control buttons have raised characters, but not braille.

Restrooms

There are four accessible restrooms in the museum. Three are available at the northwest corner, one on each of the three levels of the museum. The fourth is available on the first floor on the east side of the atrium.

Accessible restrooms are also located outside of the Research Center on the second floor of the east side of the building.

All restrooms feature the following accommodations unless otherwise noted:

  • Tactile entrance signs, including raised letters and braille
    • Please note: The third floor women’s restroom does not currently have a tactile sign; it is being replaced soon.
  • Power-assist automatic door openers
  • ADA-compliant stalls
  • Infant changing tables except the Research Center restrooms, which do not have changing tables
  • Stools for child handwashing, which may also be used for the drinking fountains
  • Automatic paper towel dispensers and electric hand dryers. The hand dryers have labels that read: “Please use paper towels to be more accommodating to visitors with sensory sensitivities”

Water Fountains

Wheelchair accessible water fountains are located near all museum restrooms. On the east side of the building, wheelchair accessible water fountains are located near the elevator outside of the Research Center. Please feel free to use the bathroom stools for the drinking fountains.

Exhibits

All exhibit areas are ADA-compliant and low pile when carpeted. There may be small door thresholds to navigate over in some of the galleries and several unmarked ramps that cause changes in elevation. Please note that visitors will encounter lower light levels in some of the exhibition spaces. For additional sensory information, please see the “Sensory Details” section below. 

Auditorium

The auditorium seats up to 246 people and is physically accessible with six ADA-compliant spots and companion seats. An elevator and wheelchair ramp is available for lower-level seating and stage access.

Sensory Sensitivities

Times to Visit

Mornings between 9:00-10:00 a.m. are usually less busy, quieter times of the day to visit. The winter months are also typically quieter. Visitation will vary depending on holidays, school vacations, weather and other factors. Please call the information desk at 515-281-5111 to inquire about days with no scheduled group visits.

The Research Center is consistently quiet during open hours. If you schedule an appointment in advance, the reference librarian will let you know if there is a scheduled group visit. Earplugs are also available at the Research Center information desk and headphones are allowed.

Preview the Galleries

It may be helpful to review the Museum Exhibit Guide and to explore the online exhibitions to prepare for your visit. The following online exhibitions are currently available:

Sensory Details

Lighting

  • When standing at certain angles, some museum lighting reflects off of tall exhibit cases and plastic-covered posters displayed higher up, most notably in the exhibit Visible Vault.
  • A looping video by Tiny Circus in the Riding Through History exhibit (located at the entrance to You Gotta Know the Territory) was created using stop motion and the flickering light may cause a strobe effect during some parts of the video.
  • The atrium can be very bright with natural sunlight when exiting the dimly-lit galleries.

Sound

  • The HVAC system hums throughout the atrium and galleries.
  • Most exhibits have auto-play videos or sound bleeds that can be heard throughout the galleries. Many videos have a countdown timer to indicate when they will begin, but other sounds will play without warning.
  • Delicate Balance on the first floor loops quiet nature sounds throughout the galleries, including flowing water and honking geese.
  • You Gotta Know the Territory loops gentle flute music throughout the Native American section of the exhibit.
  • The Hollywood in the Heartland and Riding Through History exhibits on the second floor feature multiple videos with competing sounds in the space.

Other

  • All galleries are cool in temperature and the atrium is warmer. The auditorium is also often cold.
  • There are two unmarked ramps in Delicate Balance and three unmarked ramps in You Gotta Know the Territory. There is also a domed bark lodge replica in You Gotta Know the Territory where there are small, unmarked inclines to enter on either side.

Quiet Spaces

There are currently no designated quiet spaces for the public in the museum. Two areas — Hands-On History on the first floor and the Goldie’s Kids Club Creative Corner on the second floor — both have comfortable areas with a variety of seating options. These spaces can be relatively quiet with minimal to no sound bleed depending on other visitors. These spaces are also great activity areas with room for movement and play. Please inquire at the museum information desk if you may need access to a quiet space during your visit and we will do our best to accommodate.

Link to a high resolution image of the Goldie’s Kids Club Creative Corner on the second floor with a variety of seating options
Goldie’s Kids Club Creative Corner

 

Link to a high resolution image of the Corner of the Hands-On History exhibit on the first floor with a variety of seating options
Hands-On History reading corner

 

The Collaboration Spaces in the Research Center may be used as designated quiet spaces and are available during Research Center open hours. There is one large room and one small room, both with tables that seat four people. Please note they have glass walls, as pictured below. Archival material is not allowed in the Collaboration Spaces for collection safety, however visitors may use the space to read books in the library collection. 

Link to a high resolution image of the Collaboration Spaces in the Research Center
Collaboration Spaces in the Research Center

Noise-Canceling Headphones

A limited number of noise-canceling headphones are available to borrow on a first-come, first-served basis. Please check out a pair of headphones at the information desk on the first floor. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.

Deaf or Hard of Hearing

A limited number of iPads are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the information desk on the first floor. Visitors are required to leave a photo ID with information desk staff when borrowing an iPad. The iPads have several accessibility apps enabled, including Otter which can be used to transcribe spoken conversations and video audio. Please see the “Alternative Exhibition Text Formats” section below for more information.

Automatic closed captioning is available for all online programs. Videos included in the exhibits Iowa’s People & Places and Iowa History 101, and one video in Riding Through History, are transcribed on screen. 

To request live captioning or ASL interpretation for an online or in-person event, please email shsi.accessibility@iowa.gov or call 515-281-8352 at least two weeks in advance if possible.

Blind or Low Vision

Visitors will encounter lower light levels in some of the exhibition spaces. There are also several unmarked changes in flooring levels in the exhibits Delicate Balance and You Gotta Know the Territory. For assistance through the galleries, please inquire at the museum information desk or call 515-281-5111.

Magnifying sheets for enlarging exhibit text are available at the information desk on the first floor of the museum.

At the Research Center, magnifying glasses of various sizes are available for enlarging text, pictured below. All microfilm readers can enlarge the microfilm.
 

Link to a high resolution image of various sizes of magnifying glasses available to borrow in the Research Center
Magnifying glasses available to borrow in the Research Center

 

Please note the Research Center has four, slightly raised outlet covers in the middle of the Research Center in the exhibit area, pictured below.

Link to a high resolution image of a raised outlet cover in the Research Center
Raised outlet cover in the Research Center

Braille

All public restrooms and elevators have tactile signs, including raised letters and braille, except the following which will be replaced soon: third floor women’s restroom, third floor elevator and first floor east elevator. The elevator car control buttons have raised characters, but not braille.

Iowa’s People & Places exhibition text is available in braille upon request at the information desk. Thank you to the Iowa Department for the Blind Braille Group for this transcription.

Tactile Tours

Tactile tours for an exhibit are available upon request with at least three weeks' advance notice. These tours are one hour in length and include opportunities to touch various artifacts. If you are interested in requesting a tactile tour, please email shsi.accessibility@iowa.gov or call 515-281-8352.

Screen Readers

Please see the “Alternative Exhibition Text Formats” section below for accessible exhibit text.

Alternative Exhibition Text Formats

Accessibility Apps

A limited number of iPads are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the information desk on the first floor. Visitors are required to leave a photo ID with information desk staff when borrowing an iPad. 

The iPads have the following accessibility apps enabled, in addition to standard, built-in accessibility features, which include a screen reader, enlarging text, inverting colors, grayscale, increasing contrast and more.

  • Seeing AI (iOS) and Google Lookout (Android) both read text out loud when a smart device’s camera is positioned over the text.
  • Google Lens (iOS or Android) can use an image or a device’s camera to search online without the need to type or describe in words. Use it to translate text from over 100 languages in real-time, copy text from an image to paste into another app or browser, and identify or learn more about an image.
  • Otter (iOS or Android) can caption live speech during a conversation, from videos or other audio content.
  • Google Translate (iOS or Android) can translate up to 133 languages from text, image, or voice.

Visitors are also encouraged to download and explore these free accessibility apps on their own smart devices before visiting the museum. If needed, the WiFi password can be requested at the museum’s information desk on the first floor.

Online Exhibit Text

Online exhibit text can be copied and pasted, enlarged for large print, read by a screen reader, and fonts and colors can be altered using accessibility extensions on your browser. W3C Web Accessibility Initiative offers guidance on how to change text size or colors.

Text for the following exhibitions is currently available online:

We are working to provide more online exhibit text in the coming year.

Spanish Language

El texto de la exhibición Gente y Lugares de Iowa (Iowa’s People & Places) está disponible en español a pedido o en línea.

A Spanish language translation is currently available for the Iowa’s People & Places exhibit. The translation can be accessed online or can be requested in print at the information desk.

Translated Tours

Exhibit tours with a translator must be requested at least three weeks in advance and are subject to staff availability. Please provide your own translator or let us know and we will help connect you with translators in the area. Email shsi.accessibility@iowa.gov or call 515-281-8352 to inquire about a translated tour.

Families with Young Children

Strollers & Wagons

Strollers and wagons are allowed in all public areas of the museum. 

Restrooms

There are four restrooms in the museum. Three are available at the northwest corner, one on each of the three levels of the museum. The fourth is available on the first floor on the east side of the atrium. An infant changing table is located in each restroom and stools are available for child handwashing. Please feel free to use the bathroom stools for the drinking fountains as well.

Restrooms are also located outside of the Research Center on the second floor of the east side of the building. Please note there are no infant changing tables available in the Research Center restrooms.

Nursing Room

A private space for nursing is currently not available to the public. Please inquire at the information desk for potential access to the employee’s nursing room on the third floor. The room has a lock, a screen for privacy, chair options and a small fridge for storing milk. Please note that this space is for individual use. A sink can be accessed in the employee break room just around the corner or in the public restroom. We plan to provide a private nursing room for public use in the future.

Link to a high resolution image of the nursing room with three chairs and a small fridge
Nursing Room

Youth Activities

The following educational materials are available for self-guided visits at the museum and are geared toward the following indicated age groups or grades.

Find more information about youth and family programs and Goldie’s Kids Club on the website. Read the State Historical Museum of Iowa Visit Expectations for Students, Teachers and Chaperones to prepare for a visit with children.

Other Accommodations & Feedback

The State Historical Society of Iowa is dedicated to providing inclusive and welcoming experiences for all audiences. We are continuing to make improvements to the State Historical Building and staff receive ongoing training and information about interacting with people with disabilities. 

For accessibility questions and to request reasonable accommodations, please email shsi.accessibility@iowa.gov or call 515-281-8352. Please note that at times, certain accommodations may not be possible.

We also welcome feedback about the accessibility of SHSI spaces and the accommodations available. Please fill out this short survey online to provide feedback about your visit or ask staff how you can take the survey during your visit.