NEA taking the past into the future

In support of the State Historical Society of Iowa

2015-04-01 9:51 AM | Michelle Romero

Gregor Trinkaus-Randall circulated a petition last week on the NEA listserv that asked for your signature in support of the State Historical Society of Iowa.  According to the petition, that institution, in the face of a collections assessment, has seen hours cut and resources slashed; the future of public access to materials is uncertain.  Our thanks to Gregor for alerting membership to this initiative. 

For more information and a link to that petition, see the State Historical Society of Iowa’s page on

Earlier this week, Colin Lukens (President), Jennifer Gunter King (President-elect), and Jill Snyder (Immediate Past President) sent a letter in support of the State Historical Society of Iowa to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs on behalf of the NEA membership.  Yesterday, NEA received a reply from the State Archivist of Iowa Tony Jahn.  Mr. Jahn attempts to clear up some mis-information and suggests where NEA can position its advocacy efforts:  


Good Afternoon Colin and New England Archivists,

Thank you for the letter of support.  Over the last few days information has come to pass about the State Historical Society of Iowa‘s organizational strategy and collections management that is incorrectly grounded on conjecture and wild speculation.  Please know…

The State Historical Society of Iowa:

-- Did not cut its budget in FY 2015
-- Is not facing any budget cuts for FY2016
-- Nor are our collections under any physical threat.

In fact, as I write, a bill is moving through the Iowa State General Assembly to revitalize the State Historical Building. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (agency that oversees the State Historical Society of Iowa) is extremely fortunate that Governor Terry Branstad proposed a $65 million investment, and if passed, there is the potential for monetary impact up to $93 million with additional funds coming from future private/public partnership.  65% of the allocation will be addressing capital building needs (including collection storage upgrades) while the remaining 35% will address long overdue collections needs (preservation, access, organization, etc.) and a visitor experience revitalization which would better showcase the collection.  The outcome of this legislation will not impact our current general fund allocation either way.

Historic collections are the lifeblood of the State Historical Society of Iowa.  For more than 157 years our organization has and continues to be a leader in collecting, preserving and making accessible Iowa’s past.  We have an ongoing Master Planning process, and as it nears completion we look forward to continuing the conversation with Iowans and other interested parties detailing how our unprecedented initiative to improve history in Iowa will:

-- Preserve our collections for all Iowans.
-- Engage Iowans across all 99 Iowa counties through improved collection accessibility, preservation and sustainability.
-- Inspire all Iowans to connect with their past for a brighter present and future.

Thank you for your consideration and please share with your colleagues as their advocacy efforts would be very impactful if they were focused on the capital funding bill currently being considered, and why the State Historical Society of Iowa could generally benefit from an increased budget.

History is a shared responsibility and thank you to the New England Archivists for being an integral part of preserving the Iowa story.

Tony Jahn
State Archivist, State Historical Library & Archives | 515.281.4895 |

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