Iowa History 101 mobile museum makes a stop at OT

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


The Iowa History 101 mobile museum made a debut appearance in Henry County at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion this weekend.

The museum, which is a part of the State Historical Society of Iowa, is making its way through all 99 counties, bringing the history of Iowa to the people of Iowa.

The museum is home to the Space Shuttle Patch of astronaut and Iowa Wesleyan University alumna Peggy Whitson. Another artifact with possible roots in Henry County is a picture of people detasseling corn in the 1950s, where one student is seen wearing a Mt. Pleasant High T-shirt.

?Our history, our roots, how our state was built, I think it?s incredibly important for kids,? said museum visitor Debra Carroll-Jones, of Burlington. ?I had those conversations with my grandmother and my great-grandmother. Kids these days aren?t.?

Next to Carroll-Jones, Jean Coppes, of Yarmouth, was tickled to see the mobile museum at Old Threshers. She had just seen it featured on Iowa Public Television when it was at the Iowa State Fair in August.

The mobile museum was born out of a desire from staff at the State Historical Society of Iowa to get out of Des Moines. The history of over 80 counties in Iowa is represented in the little museum, practically covering it from floor to ceiling in history.

?We take seriously that we serve the entire state,? said Leo Landis, museum curator.

Landis was thrilled to bring the mobile museum to Henry County for the first time. Although Landis had never been to Old Threshers before, he is familiar with the act of tossing bundles into threshing machines and says he knows how to harness a team of horses from his days working at Living History Farms in Urbandale.

Landis? favorite exhibits is the Olympic Silver Medal, won by Natasha Kaiser-Brown in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the basketball jersey worn by Lynne Lorenzen in the 1980s at Ventura High School. Brown was an American sprinter from Des Moines who specialized in the 400-meter dash.

Katelyn Rew, of Iowa City, expressed fascination as she wandered through the small exhibit. A historian at heart, a hobby passed down by her grandmother, Rew find the museum to be the perfect fit with Old Threshers.

?Old Threshers is a celebration of heritage, of what we?ve built,? Rew said. ?This is a celebration of where we came from,? she said, speaking about the artifacts in the museum.

Maggie Emerson, of Mt. Pleasant, is a native Nebraskan, who has only lived in Iowa for a decade. Emerson still considers herself new to Iowa and is often impressed by facts she picks up such as the history of Arabella Mansfield, the first woman in the U.S. to pass the bar exam in 1869, who lived in Mt. Pleasant.

?That?s pretty progressive for a middle of nowhere place,? Emerson said.

Another artifact of note is Iowa?s first flag, created in 1917 by Dixie Cornell Gebhardt, of Knoxville. Gebhardt was part of a competition held by the Iowa chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution to create Iowa?s first flat. The final version she proposed included the colored bands of the French flag since Iowa had been part of France?s Louisiana Territory.

Over 200 people visited the mobile museum during its first day on the grounds on Thursday, Aug. 30. Landis hoped to see a total of 2,000 people walk through the 30-foot RV over the holiday weekend.

Already, the mobile museum has traveled to over 50 of the 99 counties in Iowa since it launched in the spring of 2017. Landis said they hope to reach all 99 counties within the first three years of the mobile museum?s opening.