People & Places

Iowa marks 175 years of statehood, celebrating throughout 2021

Yearlong commemoration culminates on Dec. 28 anniversary

Marlin Ingalls, from the Office of the State Archaeologist, leads a 2014 tour of the beer caves beneath Iowa City's Brew
Marlin Ingalls, from the Office of the State Archaeologist, leads a 2014 tour of the beer caves beneath Iowa City’s Brewery Square. These subterranean sites were used by beer brewers in the late 1800s as the temperature and humidity were ideal for brewing beer. The beer caves of Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are the subject of a History for Lunch webinar highlighted during the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs’ yearlong celebration of Iowa’s 175th statehood anniversary. (Justin Torner/Freelance for The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Before President James Polk went to bed on Dec. 28, 1846, he dipped his quill pen in ink and wrote in his diary: “Nothing much happened today.”

However, Iowans may disagree. That’s the day he signed a bill admitting Iowa as the 29th state in the Union. It’s also the reason the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, along with its divisions, the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, is unveiling a year of programs and activities to commemorate the 175th anniversary of Iowa’s statehood, culminating on Dec. 28.

“Iowa has a rich history filled with remarkable people and places that have defined who we are as a state now in the 21st century,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said in a prepared statement. “We can’t wait to share the stories of Iowa throughout the year ahead, and I encourage Iowans of all ages to learn more about our collective history through local museums, libraries and other organizations.”

Some of Iowa’s history makers are well known, like Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug from Cresco, artist Grant Wood from Anamosa and astronaut Peggy Whitson from Beaconsfield. Other Iowa stories are less familiar but just as important, including Iowa’s leading role in social issues and civil rights, from the state’s legalization of interracial marriage in 1851 to school desegregation in 1868 to same-sex marriage in 2009.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs plans to share these stories and many others through a variety of programs in the months ahead, including:

A series of free, online educational programs for all ages, including “Iowa History 101” webinars and “Iowa Stories” presentations for adults, and Goldie’s Kids Club activities for children and families.

The “Iowa History 101” online learning series focuses on the past lives of Iowans. These free, hourlong webinars will share Iowa stories and the history of the state through a cultural history lens. They will be offered on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month, beginning Thursday with a look at “Iowa’s Native Nations.” Other topics include Iowa’s Black migration, prairie fires, Emir Abd el-Kader’s life, legacy and connection to Elkader, Iowa actress Donna Reed, and the final webinar on March 30, “Iowa City and Des Moines: A Tale of Two Capitol Buildings.”

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Registration is required at iowaculture.gov/history/iowa-history-101-series

“Iowa Stories” is a free learning showcase from more than 70 historians and scholars who have shared their knowledge on a wide and number of Iowa topics, from commerce and the arts to labor and diversity. Each program last bout an hour. For details and the lineup, go to iowaculture.gov/history/programs/adult-programs/iowa-stories

Families with kids ages 4 to 12 can join Goldie’s Kids Club and enjoy educational activities every month including at-home activities, camp opportunities and much more. For details, go to iowaculture.gov/goldie

A 175th anniversary exhibition titled “Iowa’s People & Places” opening March 5 at the State Historical Museum of Iowa, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines.

An all-state Iowa History Book Club starting with an online discussion March 11 about “Iowa: The Middle Land,” by the late historian Dorothy Schwieder.

A variety of online programs during Iowa History Month in March.

A commemorative 175th anniversary edition of State Historical Society’s scholarly journal, The Annals of Iowa, in October.

A social media campaign encouraging all Iowans to use the hashtag #Iowa175 while sharing Iowa activities, photos, events, memories and more.

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New featured tours on the Iowa Culture mobile app, which highlights more than 3,500 historic and cultural landmarks in all 99 counties.

In addition to its own programs, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs invites communities and cultural organizations across the state to create their own ways to mark the 175th anniversary. Each Iowa community has its own story to tell.

For more information about Iowa’s 175th anniversary celebration, go to iowaculture.gov/iowa175

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