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Days of Learning: Curated Collection

Iowa 175

In 2021, the State of Iowa celebrates 175 years of statehood. History in Iowa, like anywhere else, is a mix of moments, milestones and memories. This special online collection features highlights of the history that Iowans share. Curated by experts from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with cultural and humanities organizations from across the state, these dynamic digital resources, videos and more help Iowans celebrate the rich and lengthy history of the state!

Navigate the Curated Collection
Click a link below to view the content for each section.
For Adult Learners For Children and Families For Educators

Featured Art, Film and History Resources

Book of Iowa Films
Recommended for adult learners
The history of Iowa's film industry goes way beyond John Wayne and “Field of Dreams.” In fact, there’s a whole book! Thanks to a generous partnership with Morningside University professors John Lawrence and Marty Knepper, an online version of their “Book of Iowa Films” is available to read online. So dig in and explore the history of Iowa's connections to Hollywood!

Folk Art in the Classroom
Recommended for grades K-12
A video series called “Folk Art in the Classroom” features 18 short demonstrations by folk and traditional artists from Iowa and beyond. The videos were made for classroom use by K-12 educators during the Summer 2021 Folk Art Education Re-envision program the Iowa Arts Council offered in partnership with the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, with financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Council Bluffs: Where the East Ended
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County
While many disagree about where the west begins, there's no doubt that the east ends at Council Bluffs. This video explains how the city’s history intertwines with the history of the railroad.

Iowa's Native Nations
Recommended for adult learners
Learn about Native nations who inhabited the land that would become Iowa long before it became a state in 1846. Lance Foster, vice chairman of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and author of “The Indians of Iowa” (2010, UI Press), provides a comprehensive overview of early Native history.

The Annals of Iowa 158 Years of History by, for, and about Iowans
Recommended for adult learners
Learn how Iowa's longest-running history journal has chronicled Iowans’ deeds, misdeeds and accomplishments for nearly 160 years. This webinar focuses on the history of The Annals of Iowa itself, as well as some of its most popular and influential articles and its special edition for the State of Iowa’s 175th anniversary.


Adult Learners

Whether you’re a poet, filmmaker, historian or someone who just likes to learn new things, think of the following resources as a starter kit to celebrate 175 years of Iowa history and culture!

Historic Pella

Courtesy of the Pella Historical Society
When the earliest European settlers arrived in Pella in the late 1840s, most lived in sod houses in “Strawtown”. An unknown itinerant artist created a very early sketch of Pella.

Community founders Hendrik and Maria Scholte arrived in Marion County in 1847. Shortly after arriving at Pella, the Scholte family built the home that is now known as the Scholte House and furnished with household artifacts that are authentic to the time period. In later years, Maria Scholte probably wore Victorian dresses like the ones displayed at the Scholte House.

Iowa’s Historic Newspapers

Discover the history of the state by browsing the State Historical Society of Iowa’s collection of digitized newspapers, including some of that date back to Iowa’s territorial days in the 1830s. The collection includes the Du Buque Visitor (Dubuque, 1836-37), Iowa News (Dubuque, 1837-41), The Iowa Patriot (Burlington, 1839), The Hawk-eye and Patriot (Burlington, 1839-43), The Bloomington Herald (Bloomington, 1840-49), and The Territorial Gazette and Advertiser (Burlington, 1840-46).

Historical Highlights from Iowa’s Film Festivals

Produce Iowa, the state office of media production, recognizes 17 major film festivals across the state. The Julien Dubuque International Film Festival is the largest and boasts an international audience. In 2021, a documentary team visited the festival to lead a panel discussion about their film “The Girl Who Wore Freedom,” which focuses on D-Day during World War II.

Religious History

Read this National Parks Service Guide to retrace the southern Iowa route that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took on their way to Kanesville (now Council Bluffs) and on to the Salt Lake Valley.

Courtesy of the Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
As the Latter-day Saints trekked across Iowa between 1846 and 1852, they spent time in southern Iowa as well as sites along the Missouri River. Using this timeline, learn how Council Bluffs became an outfitting point for the Mormon Trail. Major events in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints took place in Iowa along the eastern bank of the Missouri River.

Photographs from Iowa's Past

Browse Flickr albums that celebrate 175 years of Iowa history. The three albums from the State Historical Society of Iowa's special collections in Iowa City and Des Moines contain nearly half a million photos that capture a wide range of subjects and communities. The albums also show how photography evolved, from daguerreotype to digital.

A Few Staff Favorites

Enjoy a few books and articles about Iowa's people and places that are recommended by Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs staff, including the editor of The Annals of Iowa.

Featured Videos

Streamliners Through Iowa
Courtesy of the Ames History Museum
This lecture focuses on the sleek railroad Streamliners that criss-crossed Iowa from the mid-1930s through the 1950s. Along the way, presenter Bob Bourne points out important design elements and memorable trains that ran through Iowa.

Forever Free: Rediscovering Heroes, Heroines & Helpers on Central Iowa's Underground Railroad
Iowa History 101 Series
Learn about the Underground Railroad in Iowa, including the Jordan House in West Des Moines. The presentation also features the Forever Free program, which introduces the heroes, heroines and helpers of the Underground Railroad in central Iowa.

Household Economy at Wall Ridge: A Fourteenth-Century Central Plains Farmstead in Missouri Valley
Iowa Stories Series
This online lecture tells the story of a Native American family who occupied a lodge on the eastern Plains during the early 1300s A.D. The presenters used cutting-edge methods and the site’s unparalleled archaeological record to shed light on the technological and dietary aspects of the site occupants’ lives.
Iowa’s Borders: Evolution and Controversy
Iowa History 101 Series
Iowa has not always been neatly bordered by nearly parallel lines on the north and south and rivers on the east and west. In this webinar, learn about the evolution of Iowa’s state borders, a process that began long before Iowa joined the Union in 1846.
Iowa City and Des Moines: A Tale of Two Capitol Buildings
Iowa History 101 Series
Learn about Iowa's Iowa's past and current capital cities and buildings.



For Children and Families

The interactive activities and videos below were designed to connect children and families to Iowa's rich heritage of arts, history and film.

Quad City Symphony Orchestra

Courtesy of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, recommended for grades K-5
This series of four videos introduces young viewers to the instruments of a symphony orchestra. Each video also includes a performance.

Goldie’s Kid’s Club Activities

Recommended for ages 8-12
The following activities from Goldie's Kids Club introduce young historians to Iowa’s fascinating people and places. The activities include easy-to-follow instructions, require few materials and are designed to bring history alive. Goldie's Kids Club is a program the State Historical Society of Iowa offers especially for children aged 12 and under.

Virtual Tour of the Hoggatt School

Courtesy of the Ames History Museum, recommended for grades 3-8
Hoggatt School was built in 1861-1862 and was the first school house in Ames. This 360-degree virtual tour shows both the interior and exterior of the school and some of the ways Iowa students used to learn.


For Educators

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs provides educational resources in arts, history, humanities and film to meet the needs of Iowa educators and students.

Folk Art in the Classroom

Recommended for grades 5-12
A video series called “Folk Art in the Classroom” features 18 short videos by folk and traditional artists from across the state and nation. The videos were made for classroom use by K-12 educators during the Summer 2021 Folk Art Education Re-envision program offered in partnership with the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum, in Decorah, and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Digital History Resources

The State Historical Society of Iowa offers a variety of history resources for educators. Through free and accessible digital resources, students can learn about Iowa history by examining thousands of authentic artifacts, images and records.

Primary Source Sets

Recommended for grades K-12
The Primary Source Sets are free and downloadable digital collections that help students explore state, national and international history. The sets were created for K-12 educators and align with the Iowa Core social studies standards. Below are just a few highlights from the collection:

Read Iowa History
Recommended for grades K-5
Use the virtual module about Government, Democracy and Laws to see key documents that establish the foundations of participatory democracy in Iowa and the United States. Read Iowa History resources are free, downloadable and easy-to-follow lessons that help educators integrate primary sources and the Iowa Core standards for social studies and literacy.

Goldie's History Kits
Recommended for grades K-5
Use Goldie's History Kit: Iowa’s Corn and Agriculture Industry to explore how Iowa has been shaped by corn and global agriculture. Goldie's History Kits provide educators access to the State Historical Museum of Iowa's collections, and these digital kits, which align with Iowa Core Standards for social studies and literacy, encourage students to develop deeper connections with Iowa's history.

The Goldfinch
Recommended for grades 3-8
The Goldfinch was an Iowa history magazine for children published quarterly by the State Historical Society of Iowa from 1975-2000. Each issue focuses on a theme and includes articles, games, photos and fiction. Read a selected collection of issues that celebrate Iowa's first 175 years as a state.

National History Day in Iowa
Recommended for grades 5-12
National History Day in Iowa offers year-long academic programs that engage middle- and high-school students in original research on various historical topics. The following documentaries were created by students for the National History Day in Iowa program.


Iowa’s Babel Proclamation: Patriotism or Intolerance?
Drew Moine, Nashua-Plainfield High School
This National History Day video from 2017 focuses on the proclamation that Gov. William Harding issued during World War I and draws comparisons to similar actions during present-day conflicts.

The Last Tribe of Iowa: Leadership of the Meskwaki People in a Struggle for Survival
Alex Bare, North Scott High School
This National History Day video from 2015 presents a history of the Meskwaki Nation, including their forced relocation and settlement in Tama and various traditional aspects of their culture.

Levine v. Johnson County, Iowa: The Fight for the Identity of Carolyn Levine
Kate Hinz, Oak Ridge Middle School
This 2017 National History Day video focuses on Iowan Carolyn Levine and her fight to change the Iowa code preventing her from changing from her married name back to her maiden name.


Thank you to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs' Days of Learning Sponsors MidAmerican Energy and Musco Lighting.