Iowans will choose a new governor in November but the State Historical Museum is giving us a chance to learn more about every previous man who’s held the office. Anita Walker, director of Iowa’s Department of Cultural Affairs, says the exhibit covers every one from Tom Vilsack all the way back to Robert Lucas, who became the Iowa Territory’s first governor in 1838.
Walker says “We’re taking a look at the 39 men who’ve held the highest office here in the state of Iowa, the office of governor. Who were they? What impact did they have on our state? How did they leave their mark here? And some of the stories about the person behind the politician.” The exhibit, “Portrait of a Governor: A Life, A Legacy” opens Friday (September 15) at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines.
Walker says the exhibit brings Iowa’s past into the present as voters consider what they’re looking for in a new governor. Walker says “We’ve actually had 39 men serve in 40 governorships. (Samuel) Kirkwood served twice so we count that as two governorships but only one man. There are fascinating stories behind each and every one of them.”
Kirkwood, by the way, was elected to non-consecutive terms in the 1860s and 1870s. The exhibit includes information, portraits and artifacts from the governors’ public and personal lives. Walker says it also features Iowa’s four living governors — Vilsack, Terry Branstad, Robert Ray and Robert Fulton — in separate videos discussing their experiences before, during and after they held the office.
Walker says “You might be interested in which one sold parking meters for a living before he became governor. Or which one had a kitchen timer on his desk in the governor’s office so he didn’t spend too much time talking to one person after another who would come in and see him.” She says the stories tell, not only the story of Iowa’s governor, but the history of the state.
Admission is free. For more information, surf to “www.iowahistory.org” or call (515) 281-5111.