Contact: Jeff Morgan

State Historical Museum opening new Iowa caucus history exhibit Oct. 2

Former Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen kicks off speaker series

Complementary programming includes Kids’ Caucus, education curriculum and statewide traveling display
DES MOINES – With images, film clips, newspaper articles and more than 160 artifacts, the State Historical Museum of Iowa will showcase the history of the Iowa caucuses in a new exhibit opening Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Des Moines.
Evoking an exciting, caucus-like atmosphere, “First in the Nation: Shaping Presidential Politics Since 1972” is densely populated with images and artifacts from around the state. The exhibit explores candidates’ journeys from early visits to the state, to declaring a presidential bid and organizing an Iowa campaign, to caucus day and onward to the primaries. It also makes the case for why Iowa is uniquely positioned to hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses and describes Iowa’s success in selecting candidates that go on to be nominated by their party and win the presidency.
“Every four years Iowans play a unique role in narrowing the field of presidential candidates,” State Historical Museum of Iowa Director Susan Kloewer said, “I invite all Iowans to experience this exhibit that captures Iowa’s rich caucus history through stories, photographs and artifacts from the Museum’s extensive political collection.”
Opening day events include two high-profile political panels. The first features Dr. Andy McGuire, Iowa Democratic Party Chair, and Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a former Iowa congressional candidate and a member of the Iowa GOP State Central Committee. Moderating the panel will be David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University and former Des Moines Register chief political writer, editor and columnist. In 34 years with the paper, Yepsen covered nine presidential caucus campaigns.
"The Iowa presidential precinct caucuses are an important part of Iowa's and the nation's political history,” Yepsen said. “They have played an important role in the selection of American presidents since 1972 and look to be continuing that role in the future. They've also played a role in Iowa politics. It's important to remember and learn from that history."
The opening day speaker series continues with Iowa State University panelists discussing the importance of the Iowa Caucuses and sharing stories and perspectives about the process. Moderating the panel will be Dr. Kelly Winfrey, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Communication. Panelists include:
·         Dr. David Andersen, Assistant Professor of Political Science
·         Dr. Dianne Bystrom, Director, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics
·         Dr. Steffen Schmidt, Professor of Political Science
·         Dr. Mack Shelley, Professor of Political Science and Statistics and Chair of the Department of Political Science
Exhibit and political panel admission is free and open to the public. Advanced registration is encouraged for the speaker panels and is available online at Opening day events also include  a recording of WHO-TV’s “The Insiders” program featuring the station’s Political Director Dave Price.
Complementary exhibit programming includes:
·         Traveling Display – a statewide traveling display will give visitors a change to experience images and film clips from past caucuses as well as a selection of historical caucus artifacts from the State Historical Museum of Iowa’s extensive political collection.
·         Kids’ Caucus – Students will connect to the presidential selection process and explore Iowa’s role as the first in the nation caucus state through a variety of programs and mock caucus. Featured speakers include faculty from Iowa State University who will share their expertise to the middle school and high school students in attendance.
·         Education Curriculum – Caucus curriculum will provide educators a set of classroom materials to educate and inspire learners with the history of presidential politics through the lens of the Iowa caucuses.
More information about the complementary exhibit programming is available online at
“First in the Nation” exhibit partners include: Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics – Iowa State University, Des Moines Register, Harkin Institute for Public Policy & Citizen Engagement at Drake University, Iowa Caucus Consortium and Iowa Public Television.   
The State Historical Museum is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. The museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public. Visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa-State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.

Ed. note: The State Historical Museum also put on a “Caucus Iowa” exhibit that opened in Fall 2007 and was de-installed in Dec. 2011. It served the 2008 and 2012 caucus cycles.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs public information officer Jeff Morgan writes:

The 2007 exhibit used staged “scenes” – a coffee shop, a living room, a gymnasium, a television studio – and focused primarily on candidates, voters, campaign staff, interest groups, the media, et al.

The current exhibit focuses on locations and people, too, but does so with a content-rich display of images, films clips, newspaper articles and 160 artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection.

Here is the press release on "Caucus Iowa":

For immediate release September 19, 2007 

Contact: Jeff Morgan

Historical Museum to open "Caucus Iowa" exhibit Oct. 5 

National Public Radio presidential debates at museum Dec. 3-4 
Ben & Jerry to visit museum Oct. 17; (FREE ICE CREAM!)

(DES MOINES) The State Historical Museum will put Iowa's unique brand of citizen-democracy on display Oct. 5 when it opens "Caucus Iowa," a new 10,000-square-foot exhibit that explores the history of the Iowa caucuses.

Open through January 2009, the exhibit offers museum visitors a first-hand look at the Iowa caucuses - how they work, why they work, their affect on candidates and how they differ from every other step to the White House. It also features interactive polling kiosks, documentaries, a public issues forum and voter registration information.

"Every four years, the eyes of the nation and the world focus on Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses," said Cyndi Pederson, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. "This exhibit explores and explains the caucus method from a historical perspective and creates an environment that lets people learn about our unique political process. It is a rare opportunity to demystify democracy at work and celebrate it as a viable and necessary step in our presidential process."
The State Historical Museum is at 600 E. Locust Street in Des Moines' Historic East Village. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and open to the public. More information is available at

"Caucus Iowa" showcases the Iowa caucuses' rise to national prominence in the 1970s, explores "retail politics" in a typical coffee shop and recreates a gymnasium and living room on caucus night.

The exhibit also includes interactive kiosks where visitors can vote on issues and be part of a special straw poll of current candidates. The exhibit also examines the impact the media has had on transforming the caucuses into an international event, and a public forum space will be available to political campaigns, groups, organizations and schools for special programming.

"Overall, the exhibit tells the story of the Iowa caucuses and how seriously Iowans take their role in helping to winnow the field of presidential candidates," Pederson said. "It also showcases Iowa's best features - education, quality of life and superior workforce - to the nation and the world in a way that counters the stereotypical images we often see of our state on network and cable television news programs."

"Caucus Iowa" is funded through a public-private partnership between the State of Iowa and donations from businesses and individuals. "Caucus Iowa" sponsors are MidAmerican Energy Company, Principal Financial Group, US Center for Citizen Diplomacy, Iowa Business Council and WHO-TV. The "Caucus Iowa" Fundraising Committee's honorary co-chairs are Governor Chet Culver, Governor Thomas Vilsack, Governor Terry Branstad and Governor Robert Ray. Community and government partners include the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Drake University, Iowa Department of Economic Development and the Iowa Secretary of State's office.

The Museum's "Caucus Iowa" Advisory Board is co-chaired by former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Gordon Fischer and former Republican Party of Iowa Chair Steve Roberts. Additional board members include Eric Branstad, Lincoln Strategies; J Fink; Oskaloosa educator; James Flansburg, The Des Moines Register (retired); Jason Follet, Iowa State University; Millie Frese, educator; Dennis Goldford, Drake University; Teri Goodmann, City of Dubuque; Wayne Haskovec, educator; Gary Overla, Perry educator; Matthew Schaefer, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University; Peverill Squire, University of Iowa; Tim Walch, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; and Hugh Winebrenner, Drake University (professor emeritus).

Following are events being presented at the State Historical Museum (unless otherwise noted) in conjunction with the "Caucus Iowa" exhibit:
"Caucus Iowa Political Button Show" presented by the American Political Items Collectors 
Oct. 6, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., free 
APIC is a non-profit membership organization, dedicated to promoting the collection, preservation and study of materials relating to political campaigns and the U.S. presidency. Meet up to 15 individual collectors who will be sharing their vast political collections of pins and other memorabilia. APIC will also offer independent appraisals of political collectibles. In addition, author Brad Koplinski will be selling and signing his book, Hats in the Ring, a compendium of in-depth interviews with past presidential candidates.

"Caucus Get Together" presented by Young Professionals Connection of Des Moines
Time and date to be announced 
The Young Professionals Connection of Des Moines will sponsor an after-hours tour of the "Caucus Iowa" exhibit and a program that will include mock-caucusing for members of both parties. Cash Bar available. Please visit www.ypcdsm.comfor more information.

"Get on Board: Caucus Iowa" presented by Iowans for Sensible Priorities 
Oct. 17, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., free 
Ben and Jerry - yes, Ben and Jerry - will be in the "Caucus Iowa" public forum space to speak about Ben Cohen's non-partisan initiative, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. Guests are invited to bring a brown bag lunch, get on board the Topsy Turvy school bus, meet Ben and Jerry, and enjoy complimentary Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Iowans for Sensible Priorities is a project of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a national organization founded in 1996 by Cohen of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. Visit for more information.

"Why Are We First?" panel discussion presented by Barnes & Noble 
Nov. 2, 7 p.m., free
Barnes & Noble, West Des Moines 
Guests are invited to Barnes & Noble, 4550 University Avenue in West Des Moines, for an informal discussion by local political and media experts who will look into Iowa's first-in-the-nation status and explore why this honor is well-deserved. Proceeds of a special Barnes & Noble Bookfair Nov. 2-4 will support the State Historical Society of Iowa. Call 515-221-9171 for information.

"Mark Halperin" talk and book signing presented by the State Historical Museum 
Nov. 7, 6:30 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. event, free 
Mark Halperin is TIME magazine editor-at-large. His new book, The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President, will be released Oct. 30. Halperin will talk about presidential politics including insights into this year's campaign. Books will be on sale and available for the author to sign after the program.

National Public Radio Presidential Candidates Debates at the State Historical Museum
Monday, Dec. 3 (Republicans) and Tuesday, Dec. 4 (Democrats), 2-4 p.m. 
Event is not open to the public 
The team from National Public Radio's All Things Considered will be in the "Caucus Iowa" forum space to host a debate with presidential candidates from both parties on two separate days.

"Caucus! The Musical" 

Dec. 27, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008, times/ticket prices vary 
"Caucus! The Musical" is a hilarious, irreverent and oftentimes politically incorrect look at the Iowa caucuses and how an undersized state plays an oversized role in the presidential nomination process. Group and single tickets are on sale at, by phone at 515-277-3727 and at all Iowatix outlets. Ticket prices range from $12 to $28. Visit for more information. ("Caucus! The Musical" contains language and subject matter that may not be suitable for children 12 years old and younger.)

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and is a trustee of Iowa's historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa's past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa's historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.