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God Bless America Statue

The Iowa History Center worked for over two years to bring the 25-foot, 30,000 pound God Bless America sculpture to campus.  Our special thanks go to the James W. Hubbell, Jr. and Helen H. Hubbell Foundation and the private State Historical Society, Inc., which together provided all the funding necessary to rent the statue, which will remain on campus through December.  The statue has certainly drawn a lot of attention. All major new outlets have covered the statue, and there is always someone at the statue taking pictures of it.  Busloads have stopped by; recently over 300 Indianola second graders took a field trip to the statue to learn about Grant Wood and American Gothic. Estimating the total number of people who have come to see the statue since it went up in July is difficult, but conservatively, it’s fair to say it is in the thousands. Besides providing a perfect photo-op, it encourages reflection on Grant Wood, the original American Gothic image, and Iowa’s past.  It also provides an opportunity for us to reconsider Grant Wood as an artist.  We couldn’t be happier with the statue and the way it has engaged Simpson, Indianola, and the broader community of central Iowa.

The Multiple Lives of American Gothic

Wanda Corn, a nationally acclaimed art historian specializing in late nineteenth and early twentieth century American art, will present “The Three Lives of Grant Wood's American Gothic,” offering a look at the painting's strange odyssey from the studio of a relatively-unknown Iowa artist 75 years ago to its international celebrity status today. November 5, 7 p.m. at the Kent Campus Center at Simpson.

What Would Wood Do?

The Iowa History Center is hosting its first-ever campus wide contest, but this isn't quite your typical essay competition. Two elements, photo and writing, let students creatively show how they envision Grant Wood would have portrayed a modern Iowa couple. Take a picture in front of the American Gothic-inspired statue on campus, showing us your vision. Then write a brief essay explaining your photo and its modern influences, contrasted with how the era in which American Gothic was painted influenced Wood's iconic image. Click here to visit our website and learn more about What Would Wood Do?

Knapp Biography

IHC Director Bill Friedricks’s fifth book, The Real Deal: The Life of Bill Knapp, published in August, examines Knapp’s climb to success in the business world and offers an inside look at the transformation of Des Moines from World War II to the present.  When Friedricks started the project, Knapp told him: “Tell the good with the bad; otherwise, it won’t be worth a damn.”  Des Moines Register business editor Lynn Hicks noted that quote and explained, “The Real Deal ... is indeed worth a damn, and should be required reading for anyone wanting to understand the development of the Des Moines area, as well as Knapp’s continuing role in politics, business, and philanthropy.”  Available at the Simpson bookstore, Beaverdale Books, and Amazon.com.

Recent Programs

In June, the Iowa History Center and the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs hosted the premiere of Iowa Public Television’s “The Farm Crisis,” a 90-minute film about the tragic and devastating agricultural depression of the 1980s.  The evening also featured documentarian Laurel Bower Burgmaier and special guest NBC News correspondent Harry Smith, who narrated the film.

In September, award-winning actor Tom Milligan portrayed artist Grant Wood in his performance of Grant Wood: Prairie Rebel.  The one-act play brought the man behind the famous painting to life and explained how this Iowan’s work changed the art world forever. Read The Simpsonian review for more on this fascinating show.


Introducing our three inaugural Iowa History Center Scholars: Madison Wirth, Robert Lyons, and Brandon Herring. Scholars will conduct interviews for the center’s Oral History Progect, help with IHC events and programs, work with schools throughout the state on the Field Trip Grants, and serve on the IHC Student Advisory Council. 

Masters Thesis Award

The Iowa History Center is pleased to honor 2013 Master’s Award winner Eric Zimmer for his thesis "Settlement Sovereignty: Land and Meskwaki Self-Governance 1856-1937". Eric is a PhD candidate in the University of Iowa History Department. His focus is on 20th century America, especially relating to Native Americans, politics, and federal/state Indian policy. He is also deeply interested in public history and connecting academic historians' work with a broader audience.

Brian Browning, IHC Assistant Director

Brian's interests include Public History, Historic Preservation and the history of technology. He teaches Iowa History for Simpson's Division of Continuing & Graduate Programs. Formerly the Administrator of Terrace Hill, National Historic Landmark and Iowa Governor’s Residence, Brian lives in Des Moines with his wife Mary Kay Reser.

New Spring 2014 Internship

As an intern at Salisbury House in Des Moines, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Develop a working knowledge of Public History methods and theory
  • Gain practical Public History and Museum experience including an introduction to collections care and management
  • Learn basic objects cataloguing using museum collection management software PastPerfect
  • Analyse artifacts and primary source documents
  • Lead tours
  • Create an exhibit proposal, working from an initial concept through development of the final design

Interested Simpson students should submit a History internship application form.