Historical Building launches food drive during run of new Wettach exhibit

For immediate release November 11, 2005



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

DES MOINES – Visitors to the State Historical Building are being asked to donate food, diapers and paper products for needy Iowans during the run of a new exhibit that opens Thursday through January 9, 2006.

Products most in need include boxed meals, cold cereal, 100 percent fruit juice, canned fruits, diapers, paper towels, paper plates, toilet paper, tissue and baby wipes. Visitors are asked to bring donations to the “Big Red Barn” located in the Historical Building’s first-floor atrium beginning Thursday. The Historical Building is at 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Items will be donated to the Food Bank of Iowa.

The food drive is being held in conjunction with a new exhibit featuring the work of celebrated Iowa photographer, A.M. “Pete” Wettach (1901-1976), whose photographs captured the essence of rural Iowa between 1925 and 1960.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for guests and visitors to provide assistance to needy Iowans as the holiday season approaches and to learn about the golden years of farming in Iowa,” Department of Cultural Affairs Director Anita Walker said. “Nearly everyone has a connection to farming in his or her own family, or finds themselves dependent on the products generated by farming. Pete Wettach’s photos promote our connection to the land and to farming while allowing viewers to reminisce about a rural heritage that is rapidly disappearing.”

The exhibit, Farm Life in Iowa: Photographs by A.M. Wettach, was organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art and contains photographs from the collection of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Featuring 52 black-and-white photographs taken by Wettach, the exhibit explores 35 of the most revolutionary years for farming as a way of life in Iowa. The exhibition is a reflection of the past generation of Iowa farmers and the consequences of the philosophies and events that affected their lives.

Wettach's photographs provide historical evidence of farming advances in Iowa and honor traditions that stressed independence and self–sufficiency. His subjects included obsolete farming methods such as planting corn with a check wire and buck rake, haymaking, handy gadgets, and poignant portraits of farmers and their families. Through six decades, Wettach took some 60,000 photographs, many with a Graflex camera that used 5- by 7-inch negatives. His photos recorded the daily lives of Iowa farm families in the mid-20th century and are a visual history of life on the farm during the Depression, World War II and the post-war years.

In addition to providing portraits of men, women and children at work on the farm, the Wettach collection catalogs the farming methods, crops, animals, machinery, tools, field work and day-to-day tasks of the family farm. His photos tell a straightforward and realistic story about farm households, family life, community activities, and the roles of men, women and children in a rural society that has disappeared from the landscape. The images also document the changes in farm life brought about by the "new" innovations and technology of each decade. Because the photos span decades, this exhibit is in part a documentary of the social and technological changes in farming across the years

“Here we have an Iowa man, going out as a loan officer for the Farm Security Administration, and taking the opportunity of his travels to capture some of the most revealing images of the era,” Walker said. “His ability to capture the determination and pride of Iowa farm families is not equaled. The images he was able to preserve will forever tell the rich stories of an important time in Iowa’s farming heritage.”

While employed by the Farm Security Administration, and for more than 20 years after, Wettach worked out of his home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as a freelance photographer. His photographs appeared in Wallaces’ Farmer, Farm Journal, National Geographic and The Saturday Evening Post.

The exhibition was curated by Kathleen A. Edwards, curator of prints, drawings, photographs and new media at the UI Museum of Art. The large-format photographs were printed by Steven Tatum, UI Museum of Art photographer, from Wettach’s original negatives. More than 10,000 negatives taken by Wettach are housed at the State Historical Society of Iowa offices in Iowa City. Farm Life in Iowa is funded by the General Education Fund of the University of Iowa through the Office of the Provost.

“For Iowans, living in a state where 90 percent of the land is still farmed, Wettach’s photographs are invaluable historic records and part of a common visual memory linking the past to the present,” Walker said.



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