Twenty historic Iowa paintings that date back one-and-a-half centuries are going on display Saturday at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. Museum spokesman Jeff Morgan says many of the paintings haven’t been available for the public to see in decades.
Morgan says some of the paintings have been with the museum since the late 1800s and they’ve all been rescued from age and environmental deterioration as part of the exhibit called, "Recovered Treasures: Saving Iowa’s Painted Past." The paintings include portraits of important Iowans, landscapes, structures and other artifacts that help tell the story of our state. Morgan explains why these works of art are considered "recovered treasures."
He says a lot of them suffered from decades of exposure to sunlight, tobacco smoke, coal dust from coal-fired furnaces at the old historical museum, in addition to changes in temperature and humidity. The oldest of the works dates to 1857. They’ve all been restored in recent years by a master conservator in Illinois who donated his services to the state of Iowa. Morgan says the collection of paintings is priceless.
He says, "When we consider artifacts to take into our collection, we base it on historical value — the artifact itself and the story it tells, the connection it has to the history of Iowa, whether it’s a person, a place, an issue or a document." Morgan says the paintings are important as they provide clues about the activities, attitudes, ideas, interests, prejudices and status of the people who created and displayed them. Admission to the museum is free. For information, visit: www.iowahistory.org .