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State Historical Society of Iowa
History Museum Visible Vault

Visible Vault

Have you ever wondered what museums decide to keep? And why? Take a peek behind the scenes in “Visible Vault,” an eclectic showcase of 700-some artifacts – typewriters, World War II uniforms, rifles and more – chosen from more than 100,000 items in the museum’s diverse collection. What is now a treasure trove of Iowa history started in 1884 with a relatively modest donation of autographs, photos and manuscripts from an Iowan named Charles Aldrich, who became a curator and helped open the museum in 1900.


  • See the "National Torch of Light" neon sign that once graced the National Travelers Life Building in Des Moines
  • View beautifully crafted pre-Civil War era rifles
  • Explore dozens of stone tools created by some of Iowa's earliest residents
  • Examine many types of currency and coins used by early Iowans