New exhibit explores lives and legacies of Iowa's 39 governors - “Portrait of a Governor: A Life, A Legacy”
opens Sept. 15

For immediate release September 5, 2006


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – A new exhibit created by the State Historical Museum explores the lives and legacies of Iowa’s 39 governors while asking voters to examine what they want in the state’s next chief executive.

“Portrait of a Governor: A Life, A Legacy” opens September 15, 2006 at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Museum 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.

“Iowans will elect their next governor in November, making this the perfect time to talk about the men who have held the office,” said Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “It’s a compelling exhibit that explores their lives, their legacies and the impact their decisions had on the state. Ultimately, it brings Iowa’s past into the present as voters consider what they’re looking for in a new governor.”

“Portrait of a Governor” features a chronological timeline that highlights the 39 men elected to 40 governorships and the three men appointed governor of the Iowa Territory. The timeline moves from current Governor Tom Vilsack to the first governor of the Iowa Territory, Robert Lucas, who held the office 1838-1841. Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood was elected chief executive to two non-consecutive terms, 1860-1864 and 1876-1877.

The timeline highlights the governors’ impact on Iowa while portraits and artifacts offer insight into their public and personal lives. The exhibit also includes video of Iowa’s four living governors – Vilsack, Terry Branstad, Robert Ray and Robert Fulton – discussing their lives, decisions and experiences before, during and after they held the office.

In addition, the exhibit features Vilsack, Branstad and Ray with their spouses – Christie Vilsack, Chris Branstad and Billie Ray – in a video discussing the motivation and decision-making process in seeking the office, and their accomplishments and challenges as chief executives and first ladies. Produced by WHO-TV and hosted by John Bachman, the video offers an unprecedented look at the impact their public roles had on their personal lives.

“The governors and their wives share a common bond, a fraternity and sorority if you will,” Walker said. “They were very open and forthcoming about how they came to office and what it was like to run a household and raise a family in the public eye. We’re very grateful to them for sharing their experiences with the people of Iowa.”

In an unprecedented move, the State Historical Society of Iowa will bring together Governors Vilsack, Ray, Branstad and Fulton for a special reception in conjunction with the exhibit. The “Governor’s Reception” will be 5-7 p.m., Monday, October 2, 2006 at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Tickets are $50 and RSVPs will be received through September 25th by calling the State Historical Society of Iowa at 515-281-5111. Limited edition photographs of the Vilsacks, Branstads and Rays will be for sale and available for signing. Proceeds support the State Historical Society of Iowa.

Programs scheduled during the exhibit include:


September 15, 2006
Commission on the Status of Women
State Historical Building – Classroom B (Third Floor)
Noon-1 p.m.
The Commission on the Status of Women will offer a discussion about the role of women elected to office in Iowa. The event includes lunch from Café Baratta’s. RSVP by Sept 13 to Kristen Fink at or 515-281-8754. Docent tours available.

September 15, 2006
The Candidates Chili Cookoff
State Historical Museum
Noon to 2 p.m.
The gubernatorial campaigns of Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver and U.S. Representative Jim Nussle compete in the Candidates Chili Cookoff, with visitors voting for which chili they like best.

September 16, 2006
“Morsels from the Mansion: The Recipes of Iowa’s First Ladies”
Café Baratta’s, State Historical Building (Third Floor)
11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Terrace Hill Chef Sharon Van Verth will prepare recipes from First Lady cookbooks at Café Baratta’s on the third floor of the State Historical Building. RSVP by Sept 13 to Kristen Fink at or 515-281-8754. Docent tours available.

September 24, 2006
“My Dad, the Governor”
State Historical Museum, Second Floor “Portrait of a Governor” Exhibit
1-2:30 p.m.
Children of Iowa’s governors will speak about growing up as a son or daughter of a governor. Jack Fulton (son of Governor Robert Fulton), Eric and Marcus Branstad (sons of Governor Terry Branstad), Dee Wittmack (daughter of Governor Norman Erbe) and Phyllis Hughes (daughter of Governor Harold Hughes) will discuss their experiences. Reception at Café Baratta’s follows program. Docent tours available.

September 30, 2006
Wendy Zohrer
State Historical Building, Classroom B (Third Floor)
1-2:30 pm
Zohrer will present a program about the 1930s and the Great Depression, featuring costumes and cookies made from Governor Ray’s favorite childhood recipes. Docent tours available.

October 2, 2006
“Governor’s Reception”
State Historical Museum
5-7 p.m.
Iowa’s four living governors – Tom Vilsack, Terry Branstad, Robert Ray and Robert Fulton – will be the honored guests at the Governor’s Reception, an event that recognizes Iowa’s governors and raises support for the State Historical Society of Iowa. Call 515-281-5111 for more information or RSVP by September 25th. Docent tours available.

November 4-5, 2006
“I Want to be Governor!”
State Historical Museum
10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Child’s Play Touring Theatre from Chicago returns to create a play from the songs, stories, poems and pictures done by students all over Iowa. What if a child were governor? Stay after the play to participate in workshops making campaign buttons or holding a mock election. Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased in the Museum Store. Docent tours available.

The State Historical Society of Iowa 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. Please visit or call 515-281-5111 for more info.


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