The State Historical Society of Iowa’s mobile museum hits the road this month, packed with 56 artifacts and a video that explores years of Iowa history.
Among the mobile museum’s stops will be the Red, White, and BOOM! Celebration in Davenport. The attraction will be on hand from Sunday, July 3, to Monday, July 4.
Housed in a custom-built Winnebago, the 300-square-foot museum on wheels launched in 2017 and completed its first 99-county tour in 2019 with 175 stops along the way. The inaugural tour attracted nearly 65,000 visitors, including 11,400 students.
The current exhibition, “Iowa History 101: Iowa’s People’s & Places,” debuted last year and will continue through 2023.
“Our first tour was a success because we shared an engaging Iowa history experience in towns across the entire state, and Iowans are eager for us to come back with a new exhibition,” State Historical Society of Iowa Administrator Susan Kloewer said. “We’re grateful to our community hosts and generous sponsors who are helping make this next 99-county tour possible.”
The new exhibition shares stories from Iowa’s past with an eclectic array of artifacts from the State Historical Museum of Iowa’s permanent collection, plus a video narrated by Ames-based WOI-TV host Jackie Schmillen.
Guests will see iconic artifacts that reflect the role of Iowans in state, national, and international events, including a Meskwaki cradleboard representing the past and the continued presence of Native nations in Iowa. They’ll also see women’s suffrage materials from the early 1900s and the pen Iowa Gov. William Harding used to sign the state’s resolution in support of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Other artifacts include a menu from a dinner held in Des Moines by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1959, as well as photos of a southeast Asian refugee and Sudanese women in central Iowa, and a flight suit worn by southern Iowa native and accomplished Astronaut Peggy Whitson during one of the multiple expeditions (totaling 665 days) aboard the International Space Station.
“These images and objects remind us of the role Iowans played in global events,” State Curator Leo Landis said. “It’s easy to overlook the significant contributions Iowans have made in promoting equality and liberty, but this exhibit can inspire all Iowans to understand and appreciate Iowa’s past and promote these values.”
EMC Insurance Companies, headquartered in Des Moines, sponsored the first tour and has renewed its support for the new exhibition. In addition, the mobile museum’s fuel sponsor is Casey’s. Additional partner support is provided by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Winnebago Industries, Atlantic Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and Mike Wolfe.
“EMC Insurance Companies has deep roots in Iowa,” said Beth Nigut, EMC executive vice president. “We’re proud to be a part of our state’s history and excited to help share it with Iowans across the state.”
The idea for the mobile museum emerged in 2014 from a series of community conversations organized by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the State Historical Society. Iowans made it clear they wanted new ways to access the State Historical Museum’s resources.
Iowans may request a visit from the mobile museum for their local schools, libraries, museums, community festivals, county fairs, and other places where people gather. Visits are complimentary and the tours are self-guided. For more information, visit iowaculture.gov.