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State Historical Society of Iowa Press Release

For immediate release September 28, 2011

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

David Yepsen kicks off Caucus Iowa Speakers Series Oct. 6

Historical Museum to showcase updates to Caucus Iowa exhibit

DES MOINES – As political campaigns ramp up for the 2012 Iowa caucuses and presidential election cycle, the Department of Cultural Affairs will present a new Caucus Iowa Speakers Series and showcase the newly updated Caucus Iowa museum exhibit beginning next month.

The speakers series kicks off with David Yepsen at 7 p.m., Oct. 6, 2011, at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. The program is sponsored by DCA, The Greater Des Moines Partnership and WHO-HD, and it is free and open to the public. Call 515-281-5111 for more information.

“Iowans are proud of our role in the presidential election cycle and the strong history of our first-in-the-nation caucuses,” DCA Director Mary Tiffany Cownie said. “The speakers series will feature individuals who will share their insight and stories about the caucuses, and the newly updated exhibit explains the process and documents the people, facts and figures from past caucus cycles.”

Yepsen is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. Before taking that position in 2009, he had a 34-year career with The Des Moines Register, serving as the paper’s chief political writer, political editor and political columnist.

During his presentation, Yepsen will review the development of the caucuses, the impact it has on the nation’s politics and where Iowa’s role as first in the nation will be in the future. The audience will have an opportunity to ask questions following his address.

Following is a list of Yepsen’s career highlights:

  • Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in 1989.
  • The Des Moines Register’s political editor in 1994 and full-time political columnist in 2000.
  • Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard where he led a study group on the nation’s presidential selection processes in 2008.
  • Regular panelist on Iowa Public Television’s weekly “Iowa Press” news interview program for more than 30 years.
  • Appeared on a variety of national radio and television programs commenting on Iowa politics and the presidential caucus campaigns in the state.

In conjunction with Yepsen’s presentation, the State Historical Museum will showcase updates to “Caucus Iowa,” a 10,000-square-foot exhibit that explores the history of the Iowa caucuses.

Opened in 2007, the exhibit outlines the Iowa caucuses’ rise to national prominence in the 1970s, explores “retail politics” in a typical coffee shop and recreates a gymnasium and living room as they would appear on caucus night.

The exhibit includes interactive kiosks where visitors can answer caucus history questions and be part of a special straw poll of current candidates. It also examines the impact the media has had on transforming the caucuses into an international event.

Updates in the exhibit include:

  • New interactive touch screen questions.
  • A new section summarizing the 2008 caucuses and general election.
  • Updated news footage in the media room.
  • New artifacts on display from past presidential elections, 1840s through 2008.
  • Voting machines from the 1900s and 1950s.
  • An optical scanner vote counting machine on loan from the Polk County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections with fun questions for people to vote on.

The State Historical Museum is open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. More information about the speakers series and the Caucus Iowa exhibit is available by calling 515-281-5111 or visiting www.iowahistory.org.

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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 www.culturalaffairs.org.
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