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Corn exhibit opens at Old Capitol Museum

BY CARLY HURWITZ | AUGUST 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Corn is an Iowa thing. This will come as a major surprise to those living in the asteroid belt, who have pretty much forgotten gravity, let alone corn.

But corn is as ubiquitous as air in Iowa, and most of the residents pretty much take it for granted.

However, a new exhibition may cause them to take another look at corn. The University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums will host Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain, open to the public beginning Saturday in the Old Capitol Museum’s newly renovated gallery for the arts, humanities, and science.

Admission is free.

“We needed to have some space that was available to host exhibits of this type,” said John Logsdon, the Pentacrest Museums interim director.

A free reception at 5 p.m. Friday will feature some tasty corn treats, including corn bread and corn chowder.

The Old Capitol Museum is the second stop for the exhibit. Maize was created and put on display in Ithaca, N.Y., at the Museum of the Earth.

Along with Logsdon, Erin Irish, a UI associate professor of biology who works with maize, saw the opportunity to host the exhibit.

“We are actually the first ones to host the traveling exhibit,” Logsdon said.

The exhibit takes visitors though the history of maize from its origins through its current uses. One display case holds a number of products that people probably don’t associate with corn, including biodegradable kid’s toys, paints, children’s dishes, Tums, and Physican’s Formula makeup.

Another display shows off several different types of corn, from the sweet corn people eat to popcorn to Indian corn.

Large panels outline the story of Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk and scientist famous for his work with plant genetics. They detail the concept of inheritance and the process of genetics in plants and other organisms.

Ryan Lindsay, a media specialist for the Pentacrest Museums, said the exhibit is great for a wide age range of visitors, from kindergartners to college students to seniors.

He noted that in addition to the exhibit, the museum will include readings, stories, and films.

Visitors can learn history and new discoveries in science about maize in an interactive and multidimensional way.

The committee running the exhibit encourages the community to see what corn is all about.

“We’re here, we’re open, and we’re free,” Lindsay said.


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