Teaching Iowa History program Recognized Nationally

Since 2014, the Iowa Museum Association, an educational membership association serving all Iowa collecting and educational organizations, has been developing, piloting and implementing a program that combines the power of authentic artifacts held in museum collections with Iowa history lessons, to support Iowa educators as they implement new Iowa Social Studies Standards.

Teaching Iowa History harnesses the stewardship and educational power of museums, which care for, preserve, and document the art, history, and culture of Iowa and combines the objects in museum collections with grade-specific standard based lessons.  The project has grown to include a database of historical objects for use in illustrating lessons, as well as an ever-growing collection of lesson plans, historical essays, and links to additional instructional resource supports.

Perhaps even more impactful, is the strong partnership between Teaching Iowa History key partners that include all Iowa museums, the University of Northern Iowa, Geographic Alliance of Iowa, Iowa History Center at Simpson College, Graceland University, Iowa PBS, Iowa Department of Education, and University of Iowa Museum Studies program. 

Although the Iowa Museum Association considers Teaching Iowa History to be in its first phase of development, Teaching Iowa History resources are accessible to all at TeachingIowaHistory.com, a site hosted by Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa. The program has become a model for the museum industry and garnered national attention when it was featured in the American Alliance of Museum’s Education & Interpretation blog on September 9, 2019, in Meeting Educator Needs, Serving Museums: A Model for state museum associations.  https://www.aam-us.org/2019/09/09/meeting-educator-needs-serving-museums-a-model-for-state-museum-associations/

Teaching Iowa History Receives Award

On Tuesday, February 25, Teaching Iowa History was recognized at a ceremony during the American Alliance of Museums Advocacy Day in Washington D.C.

American Alliance of Museums President Laura Lott presented an Advocacy Leadership award to Cynthia Sweet, Director of the Iowa Museum Association, in recognition of her work as the Executive Director of the Iowa Museum Association to launch and implement the Teaching Iowa History program.

During the presentation, Lott said, "We know that museums are uniquely positioned to partner with schools and other community organizations on student learning.” Lott went on to recognize the project as a “model program in the field” calling it a “valuable educational partnership” that spotlights the “essential role of museums as core K-12 educational partners.”

Addressing an audience of almost 400 museum advocates from across the nation, Lott went on to emphasize her passion for  museums' role in formal PreK-12 education - and their unique contributions to, especially, students' learning, saying, “That's why I'm such a staunch supporter of Iowa Museum Association's Teaching Iowa History program, a super-smart, statewide project that equips K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources from the state's museums and historical societies. Teaching Iowa History raises awareness of the collections held in Iowa's museums and the important role of museums in preserving and making available primary sources of information about Iowa's people, communities, and role in the nation and in the world.  It's an exemplar of the role museums can play as core K-12 educational partners.  I am truly over-joyed to present this 2020 Advocacy Leadership Award to Cyndi Sweet, Executive Director of Iowa Museum Association for this ground-breaking work."

Sweet noted the success of the program to date is due to the support of a broad coalition of individuals and organizations, noting in particular the early contributions of Iowa Museum Association board members, then-University of Northern Iowa Public Historian Dr. Leisl Carr-Childers, and Iowa Department of Education Social Studies Consultant Stefanie Wager, in helping hone the vision for the project, and the support of Heartland Area Education Agency, which understood and supported the vision.

Sweet also noted the importance of participation by historian Dr. Thomas Morain, Graceland University, Chad Christopher, University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College, Dr. Heidi Lung, University of Iowa, and Rob Green, University of Northern Iowa Web Developer III & Practicum Instructor, noting that each plays an essential role in creating the instructional resources being developed.

Sweet highlighted the participation to date by over 100 Iowa museums who have shared objects from their collections and their historical context.  As Teaching Iowa History continues to grow and develop, Sweet hopes to see museums in every Iowa county participating in the project, providing educators with easy access to information and objects to illustrate their lessons.  https://iowamuseums.pastperfectonline.com

The Teaching Iowa History program was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and supported in part by the State Historical Society of Iowa Historical Resource Development Program.  The program was made possible by matching funds provided by forty individuals and organizations, without whose support grant funding would not have been available.


The mission of the Iowa Museum Association is to work in the interests of Iowa museums to build organizational capacity, advocate to heighten awareness of the field, and foster community.

Iowa’s museums include art centers and art museums, botanical gardens, children's museums, historic sites, history museums, historical societies, living history sites, nature centers, natural history museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, and zoos.

For more information about the Iowa Museum Association, visit: