State Historical Museum offers cool things to see and do in August

New exhibits about conservation, Civil War; Iowa Ag-Art on display

For Immediate Release: August 7, 2012
Contact: Jeff Morgan, 515-281-3858

DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad today encouraged Iowans and those visiting Iowa to explore the State Historical Museum of Iowa this month for a variety of cool things to see and do as the sweltering summer of 2012 moves into August.

“The State Historical Museum of Iowa is a terrific place to take friends and family for wonderful learning experiences about the history of Iowa,” Gov. Branstad said.
“The State Historical Museum is one of my favorite places,” said Lt. Gov. Reynolds. “The new Civil War exhibit tells the stories of Iowans who fought for freedoms while the new Saving Our Stuff exhibit shows how we preserve our past at the Museum.”

With thousands of artifacts on display, including battle flags from the Civil War, the Historical Museum engages visitors with exhibits, programs and other activities. Visitors can also schedule tours of the Museum’s permanent collection and Iowa Battle Flag conservation laboratory by contacting Sarah Macht at or 515-242-5193.

Here is what’s new to explore at the State Historical Museum:

“Saving Our Stuff” – Curious to know how paintings, clothing, flags and furniture are conserved to last? Saving Our Stuff is an interactive exhibition that opens today and explores the world of museum conservation and the meticulous work required to protect Iowa’s historical assets. Featuring nearly 100 artifacts selected from the Museum’s underground, climate-controlled collections storage facility, this 2,300-square-foot exhibition showcases a wide variety of objects from the Museum’s permanent collection – papers, metals/silver, clay pottery/stoneware, natural history specimens, wood furniture and more – in various stages of conservation treatment. As part of the exhibition, visitors can watch our museum conservator work hands-on a 1927 piano from Des Moines’ Orpheum Theatre, learn the differences between “restoration” and “stabilization,” and discover why some artifacts are best left untouched. Featured items include the pot used to make “Big Daddy’s” barbecue sauce, various paintings and a piece of the collapsed World Trade Center.

“Iowa and the Civil War: Nothing But Victory” explores Iowa’s connections to the Civil War. The 10,000 square-foot exhibition recounts the first-hand experiences of Iowans at war and the communities that supported them, and showcases historic battle flags and the actual weaponry – cannons, guns and swords – used in some of the most important events and turning points of the Civil War. More than 14,000 visitors have already experienced “Iowa and the Civil War” since it opened in April 2012.

As part of the exhibition, Museum Curator Jack Lufkin will discuss Alexander Clark and the formation of Iowa’s only black regiment during the Civil War. Lufkin’s presentation will be noon-1 p.m. on Aug. 17, 2012. Visitors are encouraged to attend this free presentation and bring a lunch or stop by Café Baratta’s to order lunch before the presentation.

Celebration of Iowa: Agricultural Art Contest – now on display in Café Baratta’s at the State Historical Museum of Iowa. Working in partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Farm Bureau, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Iowa Arts Council launched the inaugural Celebration of Iowa contest seeking art from Iowa artists that innovatively celebrates the natural beauty of Iowa and its role as a global leader in agriculture. The contest grew out of the Department of Agriculture’s interest in working with DCA to highlight art and agriculture in advance of Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey hosting the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting in Des Moines this September. You can see the artwork on display now at Café Baratta’s. Winners will be announced Aug. 14, 2012, at the Iowa State Fair. Each place-winner will receive a cash prize sponsored by Iowa Farm Bureau.

In addition, the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Library and Special Collections offer a wide-ranging and dynamic collection of documents, manuscripts, photographs and other materials for genealogical, academic and other research. Hours are 12:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday.

The State Historical Museum of Iowa is located at 600 E. Locust Street at the base of the State Capitol in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public. More information is available at or 515-281-5111.

A visit to the State Historical Museum is completed with lunch at Café Baratta’s. Along with a fabulous menu, Café Baratta’s location offers spectacular views of the Capitol and panoramic views of downtown Des Moines from the State Historical Museum’s Third Floor Terrace. Hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday.


The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is responsible for developing the state’s interest in the areas of the arts, history and other cultural matters with the advice and assistance from its two divisions: the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. DCA preserves, researches, interprets and promotes an awareness and understanding of local, state and regional history and stimulates and encourages the study and presentation of the performing and fine arts and public interest and participation in them. It implements tourism-related art and history projects as directed by the General Assembly and designs a comprehensive, statewide, long-range plan with the assistance of the Iowa Arts Council to develop the arts in Iowa. More information about DCA is available at




Mary Cownie, Director