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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release April 16, 2009

Contact: Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515) 281-3858

SHSI presents Petersen/Harlan Award to Tom Morain

Recognition is for life-long contributions to Iowa history

(DES MOINES) – The State Historical Society of Iowa has presented Graceland University’s Tom Morain the 2008 Petersen/Harlan Award for his lifelong work in preserving and sharing the history of Iowa.

Named in honor of historic SHSI leaders William J. Petersen and Edgar R. Harlan, the award recognizes an individual, group or organization that has made significant long-term and continuing contributions to Iowa history. Morain, director of government relations for Graceland University, received the award during the 2009 Iowa Studies Forum held this month at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.

Morain is a former SHSI administrator and Living History Farms director of Interpretation, and has been involved with Iowa history for about 30 years. He has taught courses at Graceland and Iowa State University, and serves on the Humanities Iowa board of directors.

An accomplished researcher and writer, Morain authored “Prairie Grass Roots: An Iowa Small Town in the Early Twentieth Century,” which won SHSI’s Shambaugh Award in 1988 for the best book in Iowa history. He has also co-authored “Iowa Past to Present,” an Iowa history book for elementary students now in its third edition.

In 1995, in connection with Iowa’s 150th anniversary, Morain edited a book entitled “Family Reunion: Essays on Iowa.” He has also written award-winning articles for “Iowa Heritage Illustrated” and, more recently, completed a new introduction to “A Peculiar People: Iowa’s Old Order Amish,” soon to be republished by the University of Iowa Press.

He also served on the advisory board for the publication of the recent history of Iowa State University, “Tradition and Transformation: A Sesquicentennial History of Iowa State University.”

William J. Petersen, long-time curator of the State Historical Society in Iowa City, was known for his book, “Steamboating on the Mississippi,” thus earning the nickname “Steamboat Bill.”

Edgar Ruby Harlan, who served as the second director and curator of the Historical Department of Iowa for nearly 30 years, played a key role in acquiring many of the State Historical Museum’s most important collections.


The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit www.iowahistory.org or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


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