September-October 2012   

The State Historical Library of Iowa has received a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize 100,000 pages of Iowa newspaper content published prior to 1923.


The State Historical Library's digitization effort is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program and has been designated an NEH "We the People" project, an initiative that encourages teaching, studying and understanding American history and culture through the exploration of significant events and themes.


While the 100,000 pages of content to be digitized represent a small fraction of the State Historical Library's collection of Iowa newspapers, the grant will help genealogists, historians, academics, students, and cultural and historical organizations gain a new level of access to the State Historical Library's newspaper collection.


At the conclusion of the two-year project in August 2014, the digital content will be freely and widely accessible on the Library of Congress's Chronicling America Web site ( The digital files will also be available for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to host on its Web site.


The State Historical Library is part of the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. 



DCA Seeks Submissions for "Home Movie Day" Oct. 20

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has issued a call for submissions for the first Home Movie Day held in Iowa.


Home Movie Day is an opportunity for you to see your very own films on the big screen in front of an audience. In addition to just having fun watching your own and others' awkward family films, the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of DCA, will provide information and resources on how to preserve, and the importance of preserving, home film for future generations.


Home Movie Day will be Oct. 20, 2012 from noon-4 p.m. in the auditorium of the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust, Des Moines. The event is free and open to the public.


Guidelines for submissions follows:


Only 8mm, Super 8, and 16mm film will be accepted.

Not all film will be shown:

  • Anything deemed inappropriate for a family audience will not be shown.
  • Film that is too degraded or damaged by age cannot be shown.
  • All submissions will be previously reviewed and edited to allow for greatest participation. 


There is no entry fee.


Submissions may be mailed or hand delivered to Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Attn: Sarah Oltrogge, 600 E. Locust, Des Moines, IA  50319 by FRIDAY, OCT. 12, 2012 (this is not a postmark date).


All submissions must be accompanied by a signed release form, which may be obtained by sending an email to:


Once your film is reviewed and accepted for showing, you will receive an email response stating the approximate time it will be shown during Home Movie Day. The public is encouraged to come and enjoy all films, but HMD will also be accommodating to those with tight schedules.


Home Movie Day is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and Modern American Cinema, LLC (Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye).



Consider Being a Museum Ambassador

The State Historical Museum in Des Moines is seeking Museum Ambassadors to help on weekends and during special events and programs. Training is available at 1 p.m. on Fridays.


Volunteers are a vital link in serving and educating the public. Museum Ambassadors greet visitors, answer questions and assist in the exhibits during weekends and with special events. They enjoy providing excellent customer service in a museum setting. They learn new skills and gain practical knowledge and experience of museum services, programs and exhibits.


Ambassadors are outgoing, enthusiastic, flexible, reliable, good communicators, people-friendly, organized and eager to learn and share.


Museum Ambassadors receive training by State Historical Society staff. They also need to spend additional time becoming familiar with the museum and reading informational material. The museum is open 9-4:30 on Saturdays and Noon to 4:30 on Sundays. They must be at least sixteen years old. High School volunteers need to provide a letter of recommendation from an adult.


Call Sarah Macht at (515) 242-5193 for more information. 



New Civil War Book Features Iowa Flag

By Sheila Hanke, Iowa Battle Flag Preservation Project


The Iowa Battle Flag Project's collection welcomes both the public and researchers. Over the years, the collection has been featured in major publications, films and television programs.  


Recently, we were honored to have author and research historian David Wildman visit the conservation lab to view the one remaining flag of the 38th Iowa Infantry. During his 13 years of intensive study, Wildman had not seen an actual flag of the 38th Iowa Infantry. His research indicated the regimental colors of this unit were destroyed by the men before they joined the 34th Iowa Infantry in January, 1865. Yielding their flag, even to their own command, was distressing for the soldiers.


As the flag was placed gently on a table and uncovered, Wildman spoke about beginning his research with the simple goal of learning more about his own great-great grandfather, Charles Whitman Sawyer. In a short period of time he was caught up in the many individual stories of the men within the unit. He spent many hours combing through archives, traveling around the country to see where these men served, and speaking with fellow researchers and Civil War enthusiasts.


The result is Iowa's Martyr Regiment: The Story of the Thirty-Eighth Iowa Infantry by Camp Pope Publishing in Iowa City. "This was a labor of love," he said. "Seeing this flag connected me to my great-great grandfather in a way that my research has not done. These flags are so important to our history and serve to connect us to the individual men who served under them."  


A total of 1,037 men from Fayette, Winneshiek, Howard, Bremer and Chickasaw counties served in the 38th Iowa Infantry. Mustered into service in November, 1862 at Dubuque, the soldiers saw duty at Fort Thompson, Battle of Vicksburg and Fort Blakely, Ala. Most of the men lost their lives to disease giving the unit with the unsavory honor of having lost more men to disease than any other Iowa unit.


The book is $24.95 and may be purchased at




October is National Archives Month: Share Your Story

The month of October is more than just a welcome change of season. It also means it's time for National Archives Month!


The Society of American Archivists and the State Historical Society of Iowa encourage archives users to share their stories about what they have found in the archives that has made a difference in their lives.


If not for these records, there would be very little evidence for researchers to rely on when exploring family history or investigating political, social or economic events. State government agency records, manuscripts, photographic images, historic newspapers, maps, and ephemera collections all need to be investigated by researchers in order to yield a complete picture. Simply accepting a great story as a fact because it appeared in a county history online can be a huge mistake! One needs to investigate primary sources to see if the story is even plausible.


In order to celebrate and understand our heritage as Iowans, access to historical evidence is essential. At the State Historical Society, archivists evaluate and acquire the records of Iowa's government agencies, organizations, and individuals that provide a complete and diverse picture of the past. Those records are organized and described in catalogs and other finding aids so that the public can identify the materials to support their research.  


Keeping in mind that we want our descendants to share the same opportunity 100 years from now, archivists concern themselves with proper preservation techniques and storage environments. Preservation is paramount to the accessibility and use of all records. A slide presentation showing some of the preservation work SHSI archivists currently perform can be viewed in the "Saving Our Stuff" exhibit at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. 


Also, see to get a sense of what the State Historical Society has in its archival collections. Birth, death, and marriage records; official documents and diaries of Iowa Civil War soldiers; the working papers of our state legislature-these and countless other materials reveal much about our past and help us understand our future.


If you don't know where to start, just ask. Our helpful library and archives staff can provide guidance on research requests, describe holdings and offer suggestions you may not have even thought about.


For more information on visiting the State Historical Library & Archives, visit




What's New in the SHPO Office?

It's Historic Tax Credit season!


Since July 1, 58 new projects came in during the filing window with requests for about $68 million in credits and 11 completed projects requesting an additional $2.5 million.


With $42.5 million in historic tax credits designated for the year, that leaves a shortfall of about $28 million. Those projects that do not get credits reserved will move up in the sequence to improve their chances of receiving credits next year. This is a team effort that includes most of the office: Deb Pedersen and June Strand log the projects and check for completeness; Jeff Carr (now lost with wife, kids, and pets in L.A.) and Paula Mohr make sure the buildings are eligible for the National Register; Jack Porter and Judy McClure review the work to be done to ensure it meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation, and Beth Foster Hill coordinates everything along with working with the applicants.


The State Historic Preservation and Cultural & Entertainment District Tax Credit Program provides a state income tax credit for the sensitive rehabilitation of historic buildings. It ensures character-defining features and spaces of buildings are retained and helps revitalize surrounding neighborhoods. The program provides an income tax credit of 25 percent of qualified rehabilitation costs.


For more information, visit





Grinnell Burial Site Earns Network to Freedom Designation

The Josiah B. Grinnell Burial Site at Hazelwood Cemetery in Grinnell has been accepted as part of the National Park Service's National Underground Network to Freedom.


The designation makes sure the site is included in coordinated preservation and education efforts nationwide as part of the Network. The site joins other local historical sites, museum and interpretive programs associated with the Underground Railroad in a mosaic of community, regional and national stories. It also opens the door for potential grant funding through NPS. This is the 10th site in Iowa to be included in the Network, with several more with nominations planned.


Grinnell began his career as a Congregationalist minister and was active in the fight to end slavery. He founded the town of Grinnell as a morally righteous community bound together by the common ideals of abolitionism, temperance, Congregationalism, and education. He helped former slaves escape to freedom and even assisted John Brown on his last raid out of Missouri. It also important to note that Grinnell's commitment to African American freedom extended to promoting racial equality. While serving as a member in the Iowa State Congress, Grinnell's uncompromising attitude on negro rights made him many bitter enemies in the House.





Annals Explores Legacy of the Civil War

The Fall 2012 issue of the Annals of Iowa features two articles about the legacy of the Civil War. 


In one feature article, Tony Klein, a high school social studies teacher at Estherville-Lincoln Central High School, compares and contrasts Civil War commemorations -Memorial Day observances, GAR encampments, and monuments- in Keokuk and Sioux City. He argues that Keokuk's commemorations, based on the significant role that community played in the Civil War, followed national patterns of Civil War commemoration as its citizens remembered and mourned the dead, honored surviving veterans, and celebrated the city's Civil War history. Sioux City, with little direct experience of the Civil War, commemorated the war as a means to celebrate westward expansion; it enabled liberty-seeking and patriotic people to move west to places like Sioux City and prosper.


In the other feature article, Brian Edward Donovan, a Ph.D. candidate in American history at the University of Iowa, describes how the Iowa Soldiers' home secured the political support from the Iowa legislature that it needed to survive financially by requiring the veterans it cared for to display themselves as wounded warriors-that is, to perform their disability by marching in uniform and living under military discipline.


A review essay discusses two new books about slavery, emancipation, and reconstruction in the Midwest.


The usual set of book reviews and notices includes reviews of books about heroes and villains of westward expansion, the Missouria Indians, Dakota women's work, photographs of Ho-Chunk families, the experience of the Civil War in an Indiana county, South Dakota political culture, Ralph Helstein and the United Packinghouse Workers of America, preservation issues related to roadside America, and a collection of David Plowden photographs.


To receive the Annals of Iowa as a benefit of membership, upgrade to the Heritage Circle level. To order a single copy of this issue, or to subscribe, call Marvin Bergman at (319) 335-3931, or e-mail and ask for the Fall 2012 issue of the Annals of Iowa.





Behind the Velvet Ropes: Museum Registrar

By Sheila Hanke

The purpose of every history museum is to collect and preserve  those artifacts that illustrate the stories told by exhibits.  Many people work behind the scenes to capture those stories and make them available to the public. One of those people is the museum registrar. 


Museum Registrars create and implement policies and procedures for the acquisition, loan, exhibition, storage, shipping, insurance, and security of museum collection objects.  Polices and procedures set by the registrar ensure every piece in the collection is properly catalogued and safely stored or exhibited. With more than 100,000 objects in the State Historical Museum, this is a quite a job.    


Many items in the Museum's collection are loaned to other museums for exhibitions and the State Historical Museum borrows objects from other museums for exhibits. Registrars are responsible for making sure all objects travel safely. They make special shipping and insurance arrangements, and often, a registrar will schedule a courier to travel with the object.


How do you become a registrar? Career paths vary but the most common route is an undergraduate degree in history, art, or anthropology followed by a graduate degree in museum studies to provide an understanding of how museums operate.


What kind of person becomes a museum registrar? Effective museum registrars have an eye for detail and the ability to see the big picture. An affinity for the objects in the museum collections (and the stories they tell) is also helpful.  





Disaster Preparedness Workshops Oct. 12

When the pipe breaks, the fire starts, or the earth moves, what will you do?  In the first moments of an emergency, personal safety is a priority, but once everyone is safe you may be faced with the overwhelming job of putting your facility back in order. The success you have will be the result of how well you have prepared.


The Joslyn Castle Trust Archive Education Program presents "Disaster Preparedness and Response for Archive, Library and Museum Collections: Organizing Your Toolkit," Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. The workshop will be at Joslyn Castle, 3902 Davenport St., Omaha, from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Fee is $60 and includes lunch. Visit for complete details and registration.

Topics will include "Developing a Simple Disaster Response Plan," "Training Staff to Implement Your Plan Effectively," and "Salvaging Books, Documents, Photos and Archival Materials." Topics will be led by Julie Page, co-coordinator of the California Preservation Program (CPP) and the Western States & Territories Preservation Assistance Service (WESTPAS).

Enrollment is limited and will be filled on a first-come basis. All registrations must be paid and received by Sept. 28, 2012. A minimum number of registrations must be received by Sept. 28, 2012 or the workshop is subject to cancellation.




Photo Note

Employees of Iowa's State Archives surface-cleaning documents. Des Moines, Iowa. ca1907. Special Collections, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines.


Be sure to visit the "Saving Our Stuff" exhibit at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines, to see some of the preservation work archivists currently perform there. 




In This Issue
State Historical Society of Iowa Receives $300,000 NEH Grant
DCA Seeks Submissions for "Home Movie Day" Oct. 20
Consider Being a Museum Ambassador
New Civil War Book Features Iowa Flag
October is National Archives Month: Share Your Story
What's New in the SHPO Office?
Grinnell Burial Site Earns Network to Freedom Designation
Annals Explores Legacy of the Civil War
Behind the Velvet Ropes: Museum Registrar
Disaster Preparedness Workshops Oct. 12


SHSI Calendar of Events
All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.
What's Happening at...



The State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City


MuseumState Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust, Des Moines


Sept. 29: "Iowa and the Civil War: Nothing But Victory" activities, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Members of the Sons of Union Veterans and Sons of Confederate Veterans will interact with visitors in the Soldier's Camp area of the Civil War exhibit. Make-and-take activity: Civil War cloth ball and doll. Museum Education and Outreach Coordinator Millie Frese will discuss Civil War books for children at the entrance to the Civil War exhibit.


Oct. 13: "Hard Tack: A Staple of the Civil War Soldier" and Primitive Flags; demonstrations 11-11:45 a.m., 12-12:45 p.m., 1-1:45 p.m. Hardtack is a very hard, flat cracker, and it was often eaten by soldiers during the Civil War. Learn about the inventive names and method of eating these crackers that soldiers developed and try your hand at making hard tack.


Oct. 13: "Women's Civil War Clothing" Lunch 'n' Learn, 2 p.m. Discover 1860s dress from the undergarments up! Laura Poresky's one-woman show will provide a unique examination of proper attire for an 1860s woman. The final touches, including hairstyle, jewelry and accessories, will also be demonstrated.


Oct. 20: Home Movie Day, 12-4 p.m. Celebrate amateur films and filmmaking during this fun and quirky event. See related story.


Nov. 10: "Greyhounds and Hawkeyes: Iowa in the Civil War," 2 p.m. Presented by Humanities Iowa. Speaker O.J. Fargo will detail Iowa's involvement in the Civil War from Ft. Sumter to the surrender at Appomattox. Although he focuses on the everyday experiences of a soldier in the field, Fargo also describes the situation on the home front and politics of the era.


WHTCState Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City 


Oct. 5: Iowa City Gallery Walk, 5-8 p.m. The Centennial Building will be open late as it features the jewelry work of Daniel Young Bear-Brown and ceramics and beadwork by Sarah Young Bear-Brown. The brother/sister duo belongs to the Meskwaki Nation in Tama.


MontaukEventsMontauk Historic Site, Clermont 

Sept. 23: Organist Scott Kelly and friends recital at the Union Sunday School, 2:30 p.m. Featuring a variety of sacred, patriotic and contemporary music selections. Free admission; free tea at the Larrabee School following the concert.


Oct. 28: Organ recital featuring Philip Batchelder of Cedar Falls, 2:30 p.m. at the Union Sunday School. Free admission; free tea at the Larrabee School following the concert. 



History on the Move

Bring "The Fiery Trial: Iowa and the Civil War" exhibit to your community! Contact Sarah Macht, (515) 242-5193 or

for details. The exhibit is housed in a 32-foot trailer and is part of the State Historical Museum's "History on the Move" educational outreach program that serves Iowans in their communities. Bookings include a $50 reservation fee and a $150 travel expense fee.




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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