State Historical Society of Iowa Museum  

Very close to the Iowa State Capitol  is the State Historical Society of Iowa Museum.  What a mouthful! They should give it a short, catchy name that’s easy to remember and shorter to say or type.  By any name, however, the museum is a fun way to spend some time.  We visited after seeing the State Capitol building and spent the entire afternoon at the museum.

mammoth skeleton
This cast of a mammoth skeleton greets visitors to the Iowa State Historical Society Museum

The first thing we saw in the main lobby was an exhibit that includes a cast of a mammoth skeleton and other fossils, There’s a ton of information if you take the time to read the signs at the exhibits.  The lobby also features a large globe and an information desk.

Other exhibits in the museum move forward in time through Iowa’s history.  Visitors can learn about the native inhabitants of Iowa, the wildlife, and the early European settlers and the agricultural and industrial activities they brought to the state. Other exhibits tell of Iowa and the Civil War, the Great War, and Hollywood.  The Civil War exhibit is extensive, with a reproduction of an encampment, along with displays of swords, cannons and shot, and everyday items.  There is a cafe on the third floor, but we didn’t see a gift shop anywhere.

Like many family-friendly museums, the State Historical Society of Iowa Museum has a children’s area called Hands-on History, though the entire museum is very child-friendly! Hands-on History is designed with kids 10 and under in mind and has picture books and a comfortable reading area. There is also a play kitchen and a large wooden train table. An art station gives children the chance to make crayon rubbings or their own drawings and display them on the wall.