Before President James Polk went to bed on Dec. 28, 1846, he dipped his quill pen in ink and wrote in his diary: “Nothing much happened today.”
However, Iowans may disagree. That’s the day he signed a bill admitting Iowa as the 29th state in the Union and the reason the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, along with its divisions, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, is unveiling a year of programs and activities to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood, culminating on Dec. 28, 2021.
“Iowa has a rich history filled with remarkable people and places that have defined who we are as a state now in the 21st century,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “We can’t wait to share the stories of Iowa throughout the year ahead, and I encourage Iowans of all ages to learn more about our collective history through local museums, libraries and other organizations.”
Some of Iowa’s history makers are well known, like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug from Cresco, artist Grant Wood from Anamosa and astronaut Peggy Whitson from Beaconsfield. Other Iowa stories are less familiar but just as important, including Iowa’s leading role in social issues and civil rights, from the state’s legalization of interracial marriage in 1851 to school desegregation in 1868 to same-sex marriage in 2009.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs plans to share these stories and many others through a variety of programs in the months ahead, including:
- A series of free, online educational programs for all ages, including “Iowa History 101” and “Iowa Stories” presentations for adults and Goldie’s Kids Club activities for children and families.
- A special 175th anniversary exhibition called “Iowa’s People & Places” opening March 5 at the State Historical Museum of Iowa in Des Moines.
- An all-state Iowa History Book Club starting with an online discussion March 11 about “Iowa: The Middle Land” by the late great historian Dorothy Schwieder.
- A variety of online programs during Iowa History Month in March.
- A commemorative 175th anniversary edition of State Historical Society’s scholarly journal The Annals of Iowa in October.
- A social media campaign encouraging all Iowans to use the hashtag #Iowa175 while sharing Iowa activities, photos, events, memories and more.
- New featured tours on the Iowa Culture mobile app, which highlights more than 3,500 historic and cultural landmarks in all 99 counties.
In addition to its own programs, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs invites communities and cultural organizations across the state to create their own ways to mark the 175th anniversary. Each Iowa community is unique and has its own story to tell.
More information about Iowa’s 175th Anniversary can be found at iowaculture.gov.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.