The Mobile History Museum. (photo from State Historical Society.)

A custom-Iowa-built RV is back on the road as the state’s mobile history museum.

Michael Morain, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, says the State Historical Society of Iowa’s vehicle is fully outfitted to bring a wide array of interesting items from Iowa’s past directly to Iowans.

“The new exhibit has 56 historical artifacts that explore 13,000 years of Iowa history,” Morain says. “All of that is within the 300 square feet of the Winnebago.” The mobile museum debuted in 2017 and over the course of three years made 175 stops in all 99 counties, attracting some 65,000 visitors, including more than 11,000 students.

The RV is now on its second three-year statewide tour with a completely different exhibition inside.
“It is all-new so even if you think you’ve seen it, but wait, there’s more!” Morain says. “The theme for this exhibit is Iowa’s People and Places so it’s a pretty broad framework but there is a new collection of exhibits that were curated by the experts at the State Historical Museum and there’s some great stuff in there.”

The state’s massive underground vault contains some 209-million items relating to Iowa history, so he says it’s an exceptional challenge to narrow it down to a few dozen items for the mobile museum. The latest array is widely varied.

“One of my favorites is one of the space suits that astronaut Peggy Whitson wore into space,” Morain says. “There are knitting needles that an Iowa First Lady used to knit clothing for Civil War soldiers and World War One soldiers. There’s a menu from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Des Moines during the Cold War.”

Other items on display include a birchbark lunchbox a Cerro Gordo County boy used in the 1870s, a Meskwaki cradleboard from the late 1800s, and a University of Iowa pennant from Edward Carter of Monroe County, the first African American to get a medical degree from the University of Iowa, in 1907.

Here’s a list of the mobile museum’s upcoming stops:
June 7-9: Sac City, Sac City Public Library
June 11: Jefferson, Bell Tower Festival
June 14-16: Sumner, Sumner Public Library
June 17-19: Adair, Adair Sesquicentennial
June 24-26: Fairfax, Fairfax USA Days
June 30: Chariton, Farmers Market
July 3-4: Davenport, Red, White and Boom!
July 7-9: Jesup, Farmers Days
July 15-17: Miles, Great River Threshers Celebration
July 20-23: Sibley, Sibley Sesquicentennial & Osceola County Fair
Sept. 3: Okoboji, Dee’s Bee & Butterfly Festival
Sept. 4: Sheldon, Celebration Days
Sept. 17: Osage, Cedar River Rendezvous
Sept. 24-25: Kalona, Fall Festival
Oct. 14-16: Keosauqua, Scenic Drive Festival

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