Iowa milestone honors past, points to future


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In the tradition of iconic public buildings, the State Historical Building has served the people of Iowa for 25 years as a forum for cultural and civic engagement, a hub for hands-on education, and a one-of-a-kind destination for visitors and citizens alike to interact with the stories of Iowa. It has welcomed presidents and politicians, advocates and enthusiasts, and learners of all ages as the home to more than 100,000 artifacts in the collections of the State Historical Museum.

On Friday, Iowans will come together to mark the silver anniversary of this Iowa landmark, 25 years to the day it was first dedicated. But this milestone has been well more than a quarter-century in the making and isn’t as much about bricks and mortar as it is about honoring the cultural legacy of Iowa and our role in preserving it for future generations.

Not unlike Iowa itself, the State Historical Building is more than the sum of its various parts. Most Iowans know it as the home to the State Historical Museum, which has been collecting, preserving, and exhibiting Iowa’s treasures since first opening its doors in the basement of the State Capitol 120 years ago. The building houses the department’s two primary divisions, the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council. And in doing so, the building plays a pivotal role in not only the day-to-day functions of a state agency, it serves as a testament to our collective heritage, the ever-changing stories of Iowans and the quality of life we cultivate within our communities.

While this investment in Iowa’s quality of life can easily fly under the radar, it’s more visible than we may realize. Think of the points of pride on your itinerary as you greet newcomers to the state, welcome out-of-towners, or recruit new employees to your business. These points of pride are the local museums and historic landmarks that help tell the story of every-day Iowans, the one-of-a-kind festivals and events that dot our calendars throughout the year, the compelling works of public art that grace our neighborhoods, and the performing arts centers where the home-grown talent of Iowa share the spotlight with the world’s finest artists, musicians, and entertainers.  

As we pause on Friday to celebrate one such destination and commemorate the 25th anniversary of the State Historical Building, we do so with an eye to the future while honoring our commitment to preserving the past. In telling the stories of Iowa, we must also invest in the people and places that bring those stories to life and by doing so, help raise the bar for the state as a whole.  

Gov. Terry Branstad and Mary Cownie, director, Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

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