State Historical Museum announces Fall 2008 exhibit schedule
Smithsonian and The Field Museum traveling exhibits to debut in Iowa

For immediate release July 15, 2008


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

(DES MOINES) –Exhibits from the Smithsonian Institution and The Field Museum in Chicago will make their traveling debuts in Iowa as part of the State Historical Museum’s Fall 2008 exhibit schedule announced today.

The Smithsonian Institution’s “The Working White House” and The Field Museum’s “George Washington Carver” join four State Historical Museum exhibits – “Alley Oop,” “Patterns for Learning,” “Made from Mud” and “Over Here, Over There” – on the Fall 2008 schedule.

“We have put together a strong schedule of exhibits that cover a wide range of topics and issues,” said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. “From the legacy of George Washington Carver and a look inside the White House to the history of World War I and Iowa pottery and quilts, there is something for just about every Iowan and visitor to our state.”

The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. 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. For more information, visit or call 515-281-5111.

Following is the State Historical Museum’s Fall 2008 exhibit schedule and programs:

(Exhibit) George Washington Carver
August 1-November 2, 2008
What makes a man a legend? In the case of George Washington Carver, it wasn’t just peanuts. Born into slavery, Carver used his extraordinary gifts of persistence and compassion to become a trail-blazing scientist with a lifelong mission: to bring practical knowledge to those in need.

Through more than 100 artifacts, along with video, hands-on interactives, and more, visitors will see Carver’s curiosity and persistence take him from a remote frontier town to success as a teacher and researcher at the famed Tuskegee Institute. They’ll discover the roots of Carver’s “mighty vision” – a vision of exhausted fields turning green with crops – and see the recreated laboratory bench and actual equipment he used to make that vision real. And they'll see how he laid the groundwork for organic farming and today’s research on plant-based fuels, medicines and everyday products.

Visitors can explore a life-size reproduction of the horse-drawn wagon – a moveable school – that Carver designed to bring his ideas to farmers in their fields and homemakers in their homes. It’s stocked with the kinds of plants and products – from seeds and soil samples to sewing supplies, and simple farm equipment – that Carver used in his demonstrations. Finally, visitors will meet some “modern-day Carvers” working to develop the potential of plants in modern medicine and space exploration.

This exhibition was created by The Field Museum, Chicago, in collaboration with Tuskegee University and the National Park Service. It is sponsored at the State Historical Museum by Iowa State University; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; Simpson College; The World Food Prize Foundation; John Deere Des Moines Operations; Monsanto Fund; Iowa Farm Bureau; Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship; Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc.; and the Iowa State University Agronomy Department.

(Program) George Washington Carver reception
July 31, 2008, 5:30 p.m.
The State Historical Museum will celebrate the opening of George Washington Carver at 5:30 p.m., July 31, 2008 at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines.

The event is open to the public. Reservations are $20 and can be made by 4:30 p.m. July 30, 2008 through the Museum Shop at the State Historical Building or 515-281-7395.

Roland Hawkins II, a tenor with the Des Moines Metro Opera, will sing arias from “A Dream Fulfilled: The Saga of George Washington Carver,” which delves into the life of the agricultural pioneer and Iowa hero, focusing on the key events that would shape the destiny of this great scientist. Dr. Michael Patterson, associate professor of music education at Simpson College, composed the opera and will accompany Hawkins on the piano.

DMMO commissioned the work for OPERA Iowa, its educational touring troupe, in cooperation with the State Historical Society of Iowa. “A Dream Fulfilled” will make its world premiere at the State Historical Building in February 2009 as part of the Historical Museum’s History Through the Arts educational theater program.

Following the arias, Museum staff will present “The Carver Journey,” a Reader’s Theater production written by Winterset High School students in partnership with the State Historical Museum, Tom Milligan and Cynthia Mercati.

(Program) George Washington Carver – A Celebration of Life
September 20, 2008, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
The State Historical Museum will celebrate the life and times of George Washington Carver with a family event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 20, 2008 at the State Historical Building in Des Moines. Families will gather for self-guided tours of the George Washington Carver exhibit and stories of Carver’s life will be told and read. Participants can play a Carver Life Bingo game and create hand-made paper bookmarks, peanut marionettes, and paper hats from newspapers. Admission is free and open to the public.

(Exhibit) Patterns for Learning
Opens August 6, 2008
Between 1987 and 2001, Mary Barton of Ames, Iowa, donated more than 1,500 items to the State Historical Museum. Most of these items relate to her work as an amateur historian, documenting the life and times of 19th century/early 20th century quilting women.

This exhibit will feature Mary Barton’s Quilt Sample Notebooks, Fashion Print collection, Catalogs and a large number of her Quilt Study Panels, clothing collection and quilts, including the Mary Barton Heritage Quilt, which was voted one of the 20th century’s Best American Quilts and exhibited at the 1999 International Quilting Show.

As a whole, the Mary Barton Quilt Collection presents a microcosm of quilting history from about 1840 to the present day. Starting with the oldest quilt in the collection – a LeMoyne Star, circ. 1840s – and continuing through a plethora of quilting periodicals, one can see how quilting fell in and out of favor, changing back and forth from a necessary skill to a leisure-time activity in accordance with the times.

While the focus of the Barton Collection is on quilts, it encompasses the entire “women’s sphere” of the late 19th/20th centuries. Not just interested in the finished textiles, Barton assembled a world-class collection of materials and documentation representing influences brought to bear on 19th/20th century women. These materials help us understand the quilting woman – what she read, what she wore, her choices in fabric and pattern, the demands on her time and how those demands changed with improvements in her lifestyle.

Patterns for Learning is a sanctioned event for the American Quilter’s Society’s Quilt Expo Oct. 8-11, 2008 in Des Moines.

(Program) Alley Oop, exhibit currently on display
August 7, 2008, 6 p.m.
The State Historical Museum will honor the 75th anniversary of the popular, nationally syndicated comic strip Alley Oop, which was created in 1932 by V.T. Hamlin of Perry, Iowa.

The comic is about a prehistoric caveman, Alley Oop, who rides his pet dinosaur, Dinny, with girlfriend, Ooola, during all kinds of adventures and battles. The current Alley Oop strips are created by former Iowan Jack Bender and his wife, Carole Bender.

Director and Novelist Max Allan Collins (“Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman) of Muscatine, Iowa, will present his film, “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop,” in the Cowles-Kruidenier Auditorium at the State Historical Building. Following the film, Collins will lead a question and answer session with Jack and Carole Bender and Mark Lambert.

Alley Oop memorabilia, early comic strips examples and similar items will be on display. Admission is free and open to the public.

Alley Oop program schedule
Thursday, August 7, 2008

6 p.m. – Reception at State Historical Building

7 p.m. – Presentation of “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” in Cowles-Kruidenier Auditorium (Max Allan Collins introduces film)

8:30 p.m. – Question and Answer session with Max Allan Collins, Mark Lambert and Jack and Carole Bender, current artist and writer of Alley Oop.

Information about “Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” from the Max Allan Collins Web site:

“Caveman: V.T. Hamlin & Alley Oop” is a new documentary from Iowa novelist/filmmaker Max Allan Collins, best known as the writer of the graphic novel, “Road to Perdition,” which became an Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman.

“Caveman,” written and directed by Collins and produced by the University of Iowa Video Center, tells the story of Vincent T. Hamlin, the innovative cartoonist who created the dinosaur-laden, long-running comic strip, “Alley Oop,” from which the popular ’50s song derived. The strip has been credited with inspiring everything from “The Flintstones” to “Jurassic Park.” Hamlin was born and raised in Perry, Iowa.

“My father grew up around Perry,” Collins said, “and as a kid fascinated by comics, I was excited when I learned that Oop’s creator had been brought up within a stone’s throw of my dad.”

The filmmaker began his work in 2001, traveling to the San Diego Comics convention to interview nationally prominent cartoonists.

“It did take almost four years,” Collins said with a laugh, “in and around all of my own commitments, and the Video Center’s heavy workload at the U of I. But we made it happen. I’m particularly pleased that we were able to interview comics innovator, Will Eisner.”

Eisner died early this year. Another cartoonist key to the project – Dave Graue, Hamlin’s longtime assistant who worked on “Alley Oop” for over fifty years – was killed in an automobile accident just weeks after his trip to Iowa City to be interviewed for the documentary.

“The film is as much Dave’s story as Hamlin’s,” Collins said. “I was intrigued by how much the story of Hamlin and Graue resembled that of Dick Tracy artist Chester Gould and his assistant Rick Fletcher, who drew Tracy for me when I took over that strip in 1977. I came to see that through the Hamlin/Graue story, viewers could understand the way comic strips in the 20th century were produced – not just the mechanics of that process, but the personal story, the grueling work hours, the obsessive dedication, the daily struggle.”

Collins’ independent films include the Lifetime movie “Mommy,” and the innovative made-for-DVD thriller, “Real Time: Siege at Lucas Street Market.” His previous award-winning documentary, “Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane,” is included in Collins’s recent anthology film, “Shades of Noir,” due on DVD later this year.

“Caveman” has already racked up several impressive honors, in April winning the Silver “Eddy” for Best Documentary at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival and, in May, four awards in the Iowa Motion Picture Association's annual competition, including Best Director for Collins and Best Voiceover for narrator Michael Cornelison.

(Exhibit) The Working White House: Two Centuries of Traditions and Memories
September 6, 2008-March 6, 2009
Two centuries of history are preserved in “The Working White House: Two Centuries of Traditions and Memories,” an artifact-based traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, developed with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the White House Historical Association.

Archival and contemporary images, videos, as well as fascinating oral histories of workers who have served presidents from William Taft through George W. Bush convey the occupational culture of this uniquely private yet public place. Among the broader themes addressed are issues of race and gender, the evolving nature of work at the White House, and how presidents and employees have viewed one another.

They were maids, cooks, butlers, doormen, electricians and all the people who kept the country’s most famous household running efficiently. Covering 200 years of White House service, their narratives provide a rare and intimate perspective on the ceremonies, elegant state dinners, national celebrations and heartbreaking tragedies that shape and make United States history.

The “Working White House” gives exhibit visitors a rare view of the inner workings of America’s most renowned residence through the experiences, firsthand accounts and one-of-a-kind artifacts of the largely unrecognized people crucial to the everyday lives of our first families. For two centuries, workers at the White House have witnessed history in the making and, in the process, they have created their own.

“The Working White House” showcases the souvenirs, housekeeping implements, clothing, letters, menus, photographs and other objects to help illustrate the full story of the presidential residence. New interviews conducted by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and WHHA staffers with past workers provide eyewitness accounts of White House work culture and will be included in an audio tour and exhibition video.

(Program) The Working White House: Two Centuries of Traditions and Memories – Reception
September 5, 2008, 5:30 p.m.
Details to be announced

(Program) The Working White House: Two Centuries of Traditions and Memories – Gala
October 24, 2008, 6:30 p.m.
The Iowa Historical Foundation will present “A Gala Evening at the President’s Table” at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2008 at the State Historical Building. Participants will enjoy presidential wines and spirits with special guest, Barry H. Landau, author of “The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy.” Reservations to the black-tie gala are $125 per person and can be made by contacting Iowa Historical Foundation Executive Director Barb Filer at or 515-281-8823.

(Exhibit) Made from Mud: Iowa's Potters & Potteries 1830-1930
Opens September 13, 2008
A major exhibition of over 300 pieces of Iowa stoneware spanning the period 1830 to 1930 will be shown at the State Historical Museum. Made from Mud: Iowa’s Potters and Potteries, 1830-1930 will open September 13, 2008.

Unlike the wares of the eastern United States which are well-researched, the ceramics of Iowa have been largely ignored by historians of the decorative arts. During the 19th century the discovery of superior clay deposits in conjunction with the state’s rich coal seams gave birth to a thriving ceramics industry, especially in Boone, Mahaska, Muscatine, Polk, Van Buren, Wapello, Warren and Webster counties. Although machine techniques were increasingly adopted from about 1870 on, the exhibition concentrates on wheel thrown jugs, jars, pans, and churns produced by these potteries in a variety of sizes for storing, preserving and preparing food.

The presence of potters in Iowa can be documented as early as 1836. Records indicate that during the period 1830 to 1930, more than 300 individuals identified by name were actively engaged in the production of Iowa ceramics. Without a doubt, more have yet to be identified. The marks of about 80 potters have been located on pieces for inclusion in the exhibition. The earliest of these date from around 1836.

Lead-glazed earthenware, so called because of the clay body and firing technique, was produced in Iowa in small quantities. By the 1850s, more durable high-fired salt-glazed stoneware was being produced, constituting the bulk of the exhibit.

Compared to the highly decorated stoneware of the eastern United States, Iowa’s stoneware is plain and utilitarian, bearing occasionally the mark of the maker impressed or transfer-printed on the body. Some of Iowa’s potters used cobalt slip to decorate their work. The Melchers of Des Moines and Henry counties favored the use of hand-painted tulips on their wares. The potters of Fairport in Muscatine, Boone and Black Hawk counties and Fort Dodge also used cobalt slip either brushed or trailed in various floral and scroll designs. Some potteries created molded decoration for flower pots and umbrella stands.

Research on the history of Iowa stoneware has been carried out by Michael O. Smith, Chief Curator of the State Historical Museum.

(Exhibit) Over Here, Over There: Iowa and the First World War
Opens November 11, 2008
The historical museum holds a large, significant collection of posters from World War I (1914-1918), sometimes called the First World War or the Great War.

Used as basis for the exhibit, these beautifully-rendered posters were printed by the millions as propaganda messages by the U.S. government; they were meant to communicate war aims and needs to the general public in the age just prior to the advent of the radio. These posters, supplemented by foreign-produced and other artifacts from the war, help tell the story of America’s involvement in this conflict, which had staggering casualty rates.

The display addresses the fighting in Europe and the activities of Iowans at home that helped the war effort. Some Iowans became famous during the war: Merle Hay, Herbert Hoover and Emilie Stapp. The heroism of others remains relatively obscure, but will be explored, including names such as James Norman Hall and Marion Crandell, and even a rooster named Jack Pershing.

(Additional programs for Fall 2008 museum exhibits will be announced as they are confirmed.)


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 or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

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