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From the Director

What a pleasure it is to share good news for the Center and Iowa history in general.

• Our Henry A. Wallace Chair is now restored and on display in the Matthew Simpson Room in College Hall here on the Simpson campus.  It was one of three cabinet chairs Henry Wallace used while serving as Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President, and Secretary of Commerce from 1933 to 1946.  The chair was a gift of Wallace's grandson, Henry D. Wallace.  Simpson alumna Karen “Kacie” Conner ’69 and her husband Gary Gerlach funded its restoration.

• Grants and Gifts:  The Iowa History Center is delighted to announce that it received a $25,000 grant from the Fred Maytag Family Foundation. The grant will be used to support our field trip program, originally begun with a gift from Simpson alumnus, Chuck Brodersen ’57.  The program funds Iowa history-oriented field trips for K-12 students across the state.  We are also grateful for a generous gift from Jim and Ellen Hubbell, designated to support the Center generally.  We rely on such contributions and grants to maintain the Center and our programming.  Thank you!

• Congratulations to the State Historical Museum of Iowa staff, which recently received a Leadership in History Award from the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) for its “First in the Nation: Shaping Presidential Politics Since 1972” exhibit on the Iowa Caucuses.  The award is the AASLH’s most prestigious recognition for achievement in preservation and interpretation of state and local history.  Don’t miss the fine exhibit, on display at the State Historical Museum in downtown Des Moines.  Note that Tim Wilson, who was with us at the Iowa History Center last year, worked on the exhibit while serving as an intern at the museum.

• The Iowa History Advisory Council, a statewide panel convened by the Iowa Department of Education, on which I had the pleasure to serve, issued a report in early September calling for a much greater emphasis on Iowa history.  Recommendations include the development of Iowa history curriculum materials for K-12 schools and encouragement for the state’s colleges and universities to teach Iowa history.  New social studies standards currently being drafted by the Iowa Department of Education will include elements of Iowa history.

Bill Friedricks

Speaker Series: Christopher Lane

This September, our Speaker Series hosted map expert and Antiques Roadshow appraiser Christopher Lane.  Lane discussed antique map collecting in general, and then focused on Iowa and Midwestern maps, telling the story of Iowa history through many of the maps in our current exhibit, “Iowa and the Midwest: An Exhibition of Antique Maps.”  Nearly 200 people attended the lecture.  If you missed the program, it can be viewed on our YouTube channel by clicking here.

The map exhibit features twenty-two rare and historic maps dating from 1715 to 1902.  It is made possible through the generosity of Simpson alumnus, Sam O’Brien ’76, and Jim Hubbell, David Yepsen, and Bruce Kelley, who loaned us maps from their private collections.

Meet Our New Iowa History Center Distinguished Scholars

Nick Squires

Nick is a first year Scholar from Granger, Iowa. He is planning on majoring in history and playing basketball during his time at Simpson.

"I am fascinated by history, specifically about how our technology has changed over time. I wanted to be involved with the Iowa History Center because I love to promote history, preserve history, and most certainly learn about it."

Liv Hall

Liv is a first year Scholar from Huxley, Iowa. She plans to major in public relations.

“I wanted to be a Scholar because Iowa history is important, but it often gets overlooked, and I wanted to help provide others more opportunities to explore our shared heritage.  I’m honored to be named a Scholar and look forward to working with the Center.”

Rachel Miller

Rachel is a first year Scholar from New Providence, Iowa. She plans on majoring in history at Simpson while staying actively involved in theatre, vocal music, and intramurals.

“I wanted to be a Scholar because, very simply, I never learned much about our state’s past and wanted to learn more about our state’s history and share this knowledge with others.”

New Assistant Director and UGA

Daryl Sasser

Daryl Sasser is the new Assistant Director for the Iowa History Center.  He has his Ph.D. from Union Presbyterian Seminary and has been at Simpson College since 2007, where he teaches courses in United States history. We are happy to welcome Daryl to the Center.

Sasser explained his interest in joining the Center: "Iowa is so unassuming that people, including Iowa residents, have a difficult time recognizing the complexity and value of its history. The Iowa History Center does the important work of putting different aspects of Iowa’s past in front of Iowans for consideration and appreciation."

Bobbi Oelmann

Bobbi Oelmann is the new Undergraduate Assistant for the Iowa History Center.  She is a sophmore at Simpson College and is majoring in history and minoring in secondary education.  She was an Iowa History Center intern at the State Historical Museum last semester.

“I was born and raised in rural Iowa,” noted Oelmann, “and have always been fascinated by Iowa's rich culture and heritage.  I am excited to be involved in spreading awareness of Iowa's history."

Iowa History Center Blog

The goal of the Iowa History Center is to encourage public conversation about the story of Iowa. Beginning this month, our Scholars will post blogs to promote discussion of our state’s past. Please feel free to comment on their blogs and/or share them. Links to the blog will appear on the Iowa History Center website and on our Facebook page.  

Simpson College History Department

In addition to our Center, our Simpson College History Department provides students with many unique opportunities.  Beginning with this newsletter, we will feature a regular column about the department.

Led by the efforts of historian Nick Proctor, the department uses a creative approach to introduce students to the past.  Many of the courses offered by the history department employ games and simulations to immerse students in a particular historical moment.  These games vary from short exercises lasting a single class period to more involved role-playing games that require several weeks. Most of the longer games come from the Reacting to the Past series. Simpson College was a founding member of the Reacting Consortium, which oversees the development, publishing, and dissemenation of all Reacting games.

One of the most fascinating things about these games is the degree to which they are run by the students themselves. After a few introductory sessions of traditional instruction to provide historical context, professors step back and let students take charge. The games have been very well received, getting students excited about history. Simpson history professor Nick Proctor said, "Reacting games bring a level of energy and enthusiasm into the classroom that has no equal. When I talk to students who graduated years ago, the conversation about their time at Simpson almost inevitably turns to Reacting. Their emotional engagement with the material engraves the experience in their memories."