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From the Director

Humorist and writer Garrison Keillor recently said that all history is local.  Understanding our past helps us navigate our daily lives, appreciate current issues, and connects us to people around us.

One event that has connected Iowans for over 150 years is, of course, the Iowa State Fair.  It is our great pleasure to focus on this extravaganza.  Beginning in mid-February, we’ll be hosting photographer Kurt Ullrich’s exhibit of 50 black-and-white images of the 2013 Iowa State Fair.  The Iowa City Press-Citizen wrote that Ullrich’s work “takes us to the Iowa State Fair where the sights and sounds of the state's largest event come to life.”

Then toward the end of March, Ullrich will be joined by Tom Leslie and Chris Rasmussen, two scholars who have written about the Iowa State Fair.  Together the three will speak about the fair, its past, and its place in Iowa culture.

We’re also excited about a very special exhibit we’ll be putting together in the near future.  Several local collectors have agreed to loan us their historic Iowa and Midwestern maps.  It should be a real treat to see these rare, early maps displayed together.  Check back for more information.

As always, we appreciate your interest and welcome your comments. 

Bill Friedricks

Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series

Kurt Ullrich: The Iowa State Fair
In 2013, Kurt Ullrich set out to chronicle the magic of the Iowa State Fair in words and photographs. He captures moments of extreme joy and unbridled delight in these beautiful black-and-white images, celebrating the brash rural energy of the fair. The book includes all the photographs in the Ullrich exhibit, soon to go up in the Kent Gallery, and will be available for purchase in the Simpson College bookstore.  Ullrich will also sign copies after the Iowa State Fair program on March 26.

New to the Iowa History Center

Mallory Hanson

Mallory is a first year Iowa History Center Scholar from LeClaire, Iowa. She plans on majoring in history with a minor in economics. Mallory hopes to pursue a career in museum studies and become a curator.

“I wanted to be an Iowa History Center Scholar because the program will further my understanding of Midwestern history and allow me to share my love of history with others. By participating in the Iowa History Center, I hope to improve my communication and research skills, which will help prepare me for my future career. I am excited to begin my experience as an Iowa History Center Scholar.”

MaKayla Curiel

MaKayla is a first year Iowa History Center Scholar from Carlisle, Iowa.  She is pursuing a major in history, and is currently undecided about her career path.

"I wanted to be a part of the Iowa History Center because of the many opportunities it provided. I have always been interested in history and I knew the Center would provide me with more information and knowledge about history in Iowa and the Midwest. Another reason I wanted to join the Center was to gain a better understanding of what Iowa used to be and how to help it continue to grow."

Ashtyne Madsen

Ashtyne is our new work study student this year. She is a first year student from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and is currently studying to be a high school mathematics teacher in hopes of one day becoming a college professor.

"I have always been fascinated with historical areas and love to hear stories from the past. With this job I look forward to growing my knowledge and interest in the field of history."

Britney Samuelson

Britney is the Undergraduate Assistant (UGA) for the Iowa History Center.  She is majoring in social justice, applied philosophy, and Spanish.

"I wanted to be a part of the Iowa History Center at Simpson because I think that history helps us better understand the issues that we face today. I also want to learn more about the history of Iowa because I have lived here my whole life."

As the Center's UGA, Britney is responsible for editing our newsletter, helping plan events and running our social media pages.

Iowa IQ History Contest

Our first annual Iowa IQ contest is February 17 at 7:00 pm in the Black Box Theater, Kent Campus Center.  Similar in style to Jeopardy, it will feature IHC scholar Robert Lyons as our very own Alex Trebek.

  • Teams may include three or four students.
  • Questions cover a broad range of Iowa history; many of the answers can be found on our social media pages.
  • Cash prizes for first and second place teams.
  • For a chance to get a leg up on the competition, register your team before Tuesday, February 15 and receive 50 bonus points.

To register early, please email our Undergraduate Assistant at britney.samuelson@my.simpson.edu with your team's information.  Remember to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter: read our Iowa History facts and prep for the contest.  Even if you're not on a team, come cheer on your friends who are competing.

Speaker Series: Colin Woodard

This past November, our Speaker Series hosted nationally-regarded journalist Colin Woodard, author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.  Woodard contended that the United States has always been a divided nation, dating back to its founding when eleven distinct groups settled different parts of the country.  Each had its own culture, political outlook, and religious traditions.  These settlement patterns, Woodard argued, help explain divisive episodes in our history, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the civil rights movement and the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and the current political stalemate in Washington, D. C.  Over 175 people attended the lecture, which was also part of the Wonder of Words Festival.

Iowa History Field Trips . . .

We are invested in Iowa history education.  This year our field trip grant program is sending over 800 Iowa children from nine different Iowa elementary and junior high schools on Iowa history-oriented field trips. One group of students from Riceville, in northeastern Iowa, will travel 175 miles to visit Living History Farms.  Besides Living History Farms, this year’s grant recipients have also attended special programs at the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI), including “Discover Archaeology:  Iowa’s Prehistoric Past” and “The Civil War Ends: Memories and Experiences of Iowa’s Role in the Civil War.”

. . . Making History Come Alive