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From the Director

It’s hard to imagine that ten years have passed since we established the Iowa History Center in 2006. Too little was being done to preserve, promote, and present Iowa history, so we sought to address the problem.

Since our founding:

  • Our Speaker Series has held 30 programs, reaching an audience of nearly 6,000.
  • Our Special Exhibitions have included Dave Peterson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs of the 1980s farm crisis; “David Plowden’s Iowa”; Brian Duffy’s watercolors; and Kurt Ullrich’s Iowa State Fair photographs. Most memorable was our hosting of “God Bless America,” Seward Johnson’s giant, 25-foot American Gothic-inspired statue at Simpson College in 2013-14.
  • Our Field Trip Grant program has sent nearly 7,000 Iowa school children on Iowa history-oriented field trips.
  • Our Internship Program has provided 45 Simpson students with public history experience at local institutions.
  • Our Distinguished Scholars host an annual, campus wide Iowa Jeopardy contest.
  • We have encouraged scholarship on the state by awarding our annual prize for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis in Iowa History.
  • We have published 17 books on the state and region in our Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series in partnership with the University of Iowa Press.

We hope to expand these programs and develop new ones in the future, but the Iowa History Center depends on your support. We are grateful to those who have contributed and hope you will continue to do so. And for others, if you believe Iowa history is important, please consider making a gift to the Center.

Thank you,
Bill Friedricks

Iowa and the Midwestern Map Exhibit

This August, we will be opening our special exhibit of rare, historic, Iowa and Midwestern maps, thanks to the generosity of Sam O’Brien, Jim Hubbell, and David Yepsen, who graciously loaned us some maps from their private collections.  The maps date from 1745 to 1902 and tell the story of territorial changes in what is now our nation’s midsection.  The exhibit runs from August 18 through October 20.  Don’t miss the opportunity to see these antique maps.

Midwest and Its Meaning

The Iowa History Center hosted Raygun owner Mike Draper and the "Iowa Nice Guy" Scott Siepker on March 22. With the help of moderator Jay Byers, a Simpson alumunus and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the panel discussed the Midwest and characteristics that make the region unique.  The dialogue provided interesting insights and lot of laughs about the state and region from two prominent figures in Iowa pop culture.

Iowa Jeopardy

The Iowa History Center held our second annual Iowa Jeopardy contest on February 16. Robert Lyons was the emcee.  Six teams of Simpson students competed, testing their knowledge of Iowa history and culture.  Questions were drawn from several categories including such subjects as Iowa pop culture, movies in Iowa, notable names, and politics.  The winning team was made up of Michelle Beving, Tegan Jarchow, and Ethan Fredrick.  Each received a $50 Visa gift certificate.

Field Trips

Many Iowa schools struggle to fund field trips, and the Center's role in expanding educational experiences to include Iowa history has continued to grow. This school year, the Iowa History Center funded Iowa history-oriented field trips for nearly 1,000 school children from all across the state. We are currently accepting applications for field trips for the next academic year.

Featured Interns

Mallory Hanson

This semester, I have been interning at the Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS), located in Waukee. My time at the IJHS has helped me explore the day-to-day operations of a small museum. Specifically, I learned how to use the Past Perfect software, I identified and catalogued historical artifacts, and I listened to recordings of oral history. Through my internship, I have learned many new things about Jewish culture and its presence in Iowa. My experiences at the IJHS have shown me one of the ways I can apply my history degree in the future, while also exposing me to the differences between public and private history.

Bobbi Oelmann

My internship at the State Historical Museum of Iowa has been an amazing experience!  In my time at the museum, I have had the opportunity to see and experience much of the collection that is not available to the public. My position at the State Historical Museum of Iowa opened my eyes to museum work.  I learned how artifacts and collections are handled and preserved, how items are chosen for exhibiting, and how to write descriptions for artifacts being displayed. 

Tyler Stokesbary

I've learned a lot from my few months at my internship at Living History Farms as the Collections Intern. I've been able to work with a lot of unique artifacts that I see being used daily. The large collection at Living History Farms has given me plenty of experience in how to care for, catalog, and identify different objects that reside in the collection. This internship has given me the tools and experience to enter different artifacts into the Past Perfect digital database correctly. The people who work at Living History Farms really made my internship special because they taught me how integral teamwork and cooperation are to sustain a museum.

Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series

Two more books were recently published in our Iowa and the Midwest Experience Book Series in partnership with the University of Iowa Press.  They are available at the Simpson bookstore, Beaverdale Books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and the University of Iowa Press. Click on the pictures below for more detailed descriptions of each book.

The Jefferson Highway Lyell D. Henry Jr.

The Small-Town Midwest
Julianne Couch