Iowa History
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Iowa History

A Message from the State Historical Society of Iowa Board of Trustees

As we celebrate Iowa History Month in March we pay special attention to a milestone birthday for our state: Iowa turns 175 years old in 2021!

Did the people witnessing the start of Iowa’s statehood feel they were part of something historic? President James Polk, who signed the final documents to create Iowa as a state on December 28, 1846, did not even mention it in his personal journal that day. Many people, certainly, would have been focused on the tasks of daily life and perhaps less concerned with the transition from territorial to state government. But others would have been inspired by the new challenges and opportunities of shaping a new state.

Within 11 years of statehood, the people of Iowa had already decided that our history was worth preserving. The creation of the State Historical Society of Iowa, in 1857, suggests that early Iowans were aware they were living through historic times and that their experiences should be documented and shared.

Today we are aware, more than usual, that we are living through historic times. A global pandemic, economic crisis, political debates, citizen protests and natural disasters are all experiences that shape our daily lives and the world around us. We look to the lessons of history to make sense of our current times, such as the 1918 Influenza or the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We find hope in the knowledge that our forebears managed to survive crises in the past. We read and listen to the voices of past generations who found solutions to make their communities stronger. And we welcome the talents and voices of newcomers to Iowa, just as earlier waves of immigrants shaped the culture of our state.

By the time Iowa celebrates its 200th anniversary, in 2046, all of our current challenges will be part of history. The years we are experiencing now will be milestones for future historians. The documents, stories and artifacts that we preserve today will be primary sources for researchers and students. Our struggles, achievements and choices will shape the world
we pass on to our descendants.

Just as the brand-new State of Iowa recognized that our story was worth preserving, the State Historical Society of Iowa is again taking steps to preserve the stories of today. All Iowans are invited to share their photographs, objects and stories, which illustrate what we have experienced in 2020 and 2021.

The State Historical Museum of Iowa is already collecting materials that show how we have been creative, caring and challenged. Decades from now these items will be available for Iowans to study and learn from: photos from the family who welcomed a new baby with a pandemic-modified baptism, bottles of sanitizer that have become part of every public space, posters that artistically confronted issues of racial justice, and so much more.

All of us are part of the history of today. Whether we share our stories with the State Historical Society of Iowa or entrust them to our family members, we all contribute to the history of Iowa.

For 175 years, Iowans have built that history together.



State Historical Society of Iowa. Preserving and providing access to Iowa History.

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Iowa Culture

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources.