Museums & Science Centers

An American Dream: The Lebanese Immigrant at the History Center shares stories of men and women forging new lives in Linn County, Iowa. Above: Sam Aossey with horses and buggy, circa 1916.

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THE HISTORY CENTER, Linn County Historical Society, 800 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. An American Dream: The Lebanese Immigrant. Escaping conscription into the Turkish army under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, early Lebanese immigrants came to Iowa with high hopes for a better way of life. Many began as peddlers but progressed to become grocers and business owners. Learn about the challenges and successes of these men and women as they forged a new life inCedar Rapids. Through Aug. 13.

NATIONAL CZECH & SLOVAK MUSEUM AND LIBRARY, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids. (319) 362-8500. Amazing Athletes. Posters and photos celebrate the legacy of Czech and Slovak athletes like alpine skier Petra Vlhová, tennis greats Ivan Lendl and Martina Navrátilová, hockey star Dominik Hašek, gymnast Věra Čáslavská, and runner Emil Zátopek. Through July 24. Gridiron Champs: George Halas & the Chicago Bears. Features the life and work of Czech American George Halas, the legendary Chicago Bears owner and coach. Through November 2022. Czech Innovation Expo. Explore the inventions and scientific discoveries of Czechs in a unique interactive exhibit combining design, audiovisual arts, and digital technology. April 9–June 27.

PUTNAM MUSEUM AND SCIENCE CENTER, 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport. (563) 324-1933. Mother Nature: Modern Muse / Madre Naturaleza: Musa Moderna. Mother Nature continually innovates strategies to support life on Earth. While not all of her solutions are elegant, many are truly amazing—a recognition that has led to a trend in science and technology to look to nature in our search for innovative strategies and designs. Through spring 2022.

IOWA PENTACREST MUSEUMS, 11 Macbride Hall, Iowa City. My Collections. This collaborative exhibition series invites the community to exhibit their personal collections. My Collections features two personal collections each fall and spring semester—both in-person at the Museum of Natural History and virtually. Hard Won, Not Done: A Century’s Struggle (Virtual). The virtual rendition of the Hard Won, Not Done exhibition is now live. This exhibition explores suffragist history and artifacts, examining themes of intersectionality, movement fragmentation, achievements, and delays, while highlighting some movement heroes with a call from the past to use your vote today. Permanent. A River Flowed Through It: Iowa’s Legacy in Fluid Mechanics (Virtual). Permanent.

AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUMS OF IOWA, 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. (319) 862-2101. Mapping Exclusion: Redlining in Iowa. Redlining is the systematic denial of various services by government agencies and the private sector to residents of specific neighborhoods. Black populations in seven Iowa cities were subject to redline mapping that attempted to define areas of high mortgage-loan risk but led to segregated neighborhoods and poor housing conditions. This exhibit looks at the long-term effects. Through August 6. Endless Possibilities. Trace Iowa’s African American history from its origins in Western Africa to the present—through slavery, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Along the journey, you’ll explore the diversity of Western Africa, the torturous journey aboard a slave ship, the quest for freedom, the struggle for equality, and the unique history of African American communities across Iowa. Permanent.

SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM & HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 107 James Ave., Swedesburg. @SwedesburgSwedishAmericanMuseum. (319) 212-0187. This volunteer-run museum documents how and why Iowa’s Swedish American ancestors immigrated from Europe, how their culture supported their challenging quest, and why they made Swedesburg, Iowa, their home. Enjoy a documentary film, artifacts donated by local families, books on Swedish history, Swedish-themed treasures in the gift shop, and more.

INDIAN CREEK NATURE CENTER, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. The Amazing Space building and campus provides discovery of the natural world. Relax in the Bird Room, explore at the interactive watershed table, see how much energy the solar panels are producing, or head out on the Scenic Trails for hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing. Permanent.

IOWA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, 1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville. The museums features 14 interactive exhibits that inspire learning and play, including the AB … See Iowa! literacy and photography project; activities in the Art Studio; the City Music sonic creativity playroom; the Pizzeria Pie cafe, where calculation skills and geometry are put into practice; and The Blue Room, filled with giant Imagination Playground Blocks. The large-scale, multi-story Take Flight! exhibit immerses kids in the four forces of flight, featuring simulators built into kid-sized planes, a two-story slide, a real Cessna 150, and much more. Permanent.

NATIONAL MISSISSIPPI RIVER MUSEUM, 350 E. Third St., Port of Dubuque. (563) 557-9545. Explore historical, science, and conservation exhibits, and meet some amazing live animals, like the cownose ray, the North American river otter, the giant Pacific octopus, the epaulette shark, the corn snake, the giant gecko, and the tiger salamander. Permanent.

GROUT MUSEUM, 503 South St., Waterloo. (319) 234-6357. 503 South St., Waterloo. (319) 234-6357. View exhibits honoring the service and sacrifice of all Iowa veterans from the Civil War to the present day. Step into their stories through traditional exhibits, over 35 interactives, and an electronic Wall of Honor. Interviews collected via the Voices of Iowa Oral History Project total over 1,500. Permanent. Eclectic Collections. What kind of movie theater needs a 5½-foot Italian garden statue? How did firefighters get water to a blaze in the years before a citywide distribution system? Just how old is the massive wooden loom found in a Waterloo basement in the 1960s? Find out in this uncanny exhibit, where you’ll see items that have seldom, if ever, been displayed. Through June 2022. Over Land and Sea: Iowans in the Pacific in WWII. Over 285,000 US soldiers fought in the Pacific and thousands of them were Iowans. Through their stories came the beauty and horror of the Pacific Theater and what it took to win the war against Japan. Through December 2022.

Decorah Landscape, by Carl Homstad, from An Artist’s Journey: Carl Homstad, 50 Years at Vesterheim in Decorah.

VESTERHEIM, THE NATIONAL NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM & HERITAGE CENTER, Decorah. (563) 382-8828. Masks are required.  Vesterheim’s Main Building exhibits artifacts from 19th-century Norway, including a 25-foot wooden sailboat, an immigrant log house from 1853, displays of folk art that range from centuries-old woodcarving to beautiful contemporary rosemaling, and more. Permanent. Artist’s Journey: Carl Homstad, 50 Years. Carl Homstad has work in the permanent collections of several Midwest institutions. Through May 30. Innovators & Inventors. Enjoy an exhibit of historical and contemporary Norwegian innovators and an online lecture series. Through May 30. Sylvsmidja: Superior Craftsmanship in Silver Since 1940. This exhibit highlights a range of traditional bunad silver styles that correspond with the various regional folk costumes in Norway. Through May 5. Innovators & Inventors. From the gas pump to the pacemaker, enjoy an exhibit of historical and contemporary Norwegian innovators and their game-changing inventions. Through May 30.

HERBERT HOOVER LIBRARY & MUSEUM, 210 Parkside Dr., West Branch. (319) 643-5301. Hoover Heads. View a selection of original artwork from numerous amateur and professional artists attempting to capture the likeness of Herbert Hoover—sketches, drawings, paintings, caricatures, and sculptures—many of which were given to Hoover himself. Through May 1. Also view permanent exhibits on the life and times of Herbert Hoover.

KALONA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, 715 D Ave., Kalona. (319) 656-3232. Masks required. Explore the 19 buildings that make up Kalona Historic Village, two eye-popping Quilt Galleries and a Gem & Mineral Collection in the Kalona Historical Village Visitor Center, along with various displays of pioneer life. Permanent.



AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM OF IOWA, 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. (319) 862-2101. Endless Possibilities. Trace Iowa’s African American history from its origins in Western Africa to the present. Also available as an interactive virtual tour. Permanent.

AMERICAN GOTHIC HOUSE & VISITOR’S CENTER, 300 American Gothic St., Eldon. Learn about this iconic landmark and the beloved Iowa artist who made it famous. Open Wednesday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., subject to change.

ANTIQUE CAR MUSEUM OF IOWA, 200 E. 9th St., Coralville. (319) 354-3310, Over eighty automobiles dating from 1899 to 1995, as well as an original Skelly gas station and a collection of antique Iowa license plates. Permanent.

BLUEDORN SCIENCE IMAGINARIUM. West 3rd and Washington, Waterloo. (319) 233-8708. Pet a 12-foot python, fire an air cannon, create your own laser show, and more.

BRUCEMORE MANSION, 2160 Linden Dr. SE, Cedar Rapids. (319) 362-7375. Named the 2020 Outstanding Attraction at the Iowa Tourism Conference, Brucemore preserves and shares a 26-acre estate and seven historic structures. The site’s story is a lens to the past and a reminder of the people, the events, and the drive that shaped the Cedar Rapids community.

DYER-BOTSFORD HOUSE & DOLL MUSEUM, 340 1st Ave. E., Dyersville. (563) 875-2504. Open by appointment through April. Antiques and artifacts make this restored Victorian house a memorable stop. The main exhibit, now showcasing over 2,000 dolls, began with a sizeable collection donated in the late 1980s by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Schemmel of Cascade. Other items of interest include antique furniture, vintage wedding dresses, a miniature hand-carved circus, a rare German feather Christmas tree, and items significant to the history of Dyersville. Permanent.

FAMILY MUSEUM, 2900 Learning Campus Dr., Bettendorf. (563) 344-4106.

GERMAN AMERICAN HERITAGE CENTER & MUSEUM, 712 W. 2nd St., Davenport. (563) 322-8844.

HEARST CENTER FOR THE ARTS, 304 W. Seerley Blvd., Cedar Falls.

INDIAN ARTIFACT MUSEUM, 21964 Hawk Dr., Bentonsport. Call Greef General Store (319) 592-3579. Features over 5,000 artifacts found by Tony Sanders since the age of 8. Inlays of 20 different types of wood create a beautiful backdrop, making this a one-of-a-kind stop. Open weekends, by chance, or by appointment. Free.

INDIAN CREEK NATURE CENTER, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. The Amazing Space building and campus provides exploration and discovery of the natural world. Relax in the Bird Room, explore at the interactive watershed table, see how much energy the solar panels are producing. Many trails are now repaired and open to the public. Permanent.

IOWA 80 TRUCKING MUSEUM, 505 Sterling Dr., Walcott. Featured exhibits include the 1919 Pierce Arrow, Cummins ISX Engine, NH-250 Cummins Cutaway, Knox 5th Wheel and Radiator, Bill Moon Tribute, and Hall Scott Engine, plus antique gas pumps, antique metal signs, and vintage toys. Permanent.

ISU TEXTILES AND CLOTHING MUSEUM, Mary Alice Gallery, 1015 Morrill Hall, 603 Morrill Rd., Ames. (515) 294-8552.

LIVING HISTORY FARMS, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale. (515) 278-5286. Living History Farms is an interactive, 500-acre outdoor museum. Visit the 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, the 1850 Pioneer Farm, the 1900 Horse-Powered Farm, and the 1876 Town of Walnut Hill spread across 500 acres. Limited to 70 visitors per hour. Guests will be assigned a touring route and ticket time. Masks are encouraged and are available for purchase.

NATIONAL FARM TOY MUSEUM, 1110 16th Avenue Court SE, Dyersville. (563) 875-2727.  Ertl 75th Anniversary. In 1945 an out-of-work journeyman molder named Fred Ertl, Sr. began making toy tractors in his basement from molten war surplus metals. Today the Ertl brand is known around the world for farm toys for kids of all ages. Check out a display celebrating 75 years of farm toys and the company that helped put Dyersville, Iowa, on the map. Permanent. Also visit 100 Years of John Deere Tractors.

NATIONAL MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM, 102 Chamber Dr., Anamosa. (319) 462-3925, Stunning interpretive exhibits showcase a fine collection of machines and historical objects from around the world. Engineers, racers, bike builders, and tuners as far back as the late 1800s built the groundwork for what motorcycling has become. Permanent.

OKOBOJI CLASSIC CARS. 810 Jeppeson Rd., West Okoboji. (712) 332-8029. Open for tours Wednesday–Sunday. Reminisce your heart out on this sparkling tour of picture-perfect classics, cruisers, and muscle cars displayed among scale-model functional buildings inspired by old photos of small-town America and designed by architect Paul Maurer and artist Jack Reece. Buy yourself a classic ride, view the restoration center, peruse the gift shop, and enjoy third-generation scrap metaler Toby Shine’s “hobby that got a little out of hand.” Permanent.

PUTNAM MUSEUM & SCIENCE CENTER, 1717 W. 12th St., Davenport. (563) 324-1933.

RICHARD L. PROENNEKE MUSEUM, Donnellson Public Library, 411 Main St., Donnellson. Visit a museum dedicated to American naturalist and adventurer Richard Proenneke (born in Primrose, Iowa, 1916). View artifacts, items, photos, and objects used or collected during the time Richard lived alone in a cabin he built by hand in Twin Lakes, Alaska. Permanent exhibit.

SALISBURY HOUSE, 4025 Tonawanda Dr., Des Moines. While the remarkable architecture at Salisbury House may be the first thing to draw in visitors, Salisbury is also home to important collections of rare books, fine art, decorative art, musical instruments, and more. Permanent exhibit.

SCIENCE CENTER OF IOWA, 401 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy, Des Moines. (515) 274-6868. Maker’s Studio. Experiment with circuits, create a stop-motion animation video, build, test a flying machine, and more. Permanent. Why the Sky? Travel through the cosmos, get up close with spacecraft, and more. Permenent. Brick by Brick. Discover your inner builder in this exhibit pairing giant LEGO-built structures with hands-on challenges. View 10 models constructed by LEGO Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker. Permanent.

STATE HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF IOWA, Des Moines. (515) 281-5111. Visit a variety of exhibits, including the six-foot Rand McNally globe, mammoth bones (discovered by a construction crew in Des Moines), vintage aircraft, and much more. Riding Through History. Learn how two Des Moines Register staff members turned their desire to ride across the state into the largest bicycling tour in the world. Get a glimpse of the RAGBRAI experience, including signature foods, team jerseys, classic bicycles, and a short film. Permanent.

SULLIVAN BROTHERS IOWA VETERANS MUSEUM, 503 South St., Waterloo. (319) 234-6357. View exhibits honoring the service and sacrifice of all Iowa veterans from the Civil War to the present day. Step into their stories through traditional exhibits, over 35 interactives, and an electronic Wall of Honor. Interviews collected via the Voices of Iowa Oral History Project total over 1,500. Permanent exhibit.

THE THEATRE MUSEUM OF REPERTOIRE AMERICANA. 405 E. Threshers Rd., Mount Pleasant. (319) 385-9432. This seasonal museum is dedicated to the preservation of memorabilia and artifacts of early repertoire theater. The collection includes painted curtains and scenic pieces; costumes and equipment; playbills, show cards, and advertising sheets; and an extensive research library of rare scripts, correspondence, production photos, and other original source materials. Of special interest is the large collection of videotaped interviews with actual “troupers” describing their professional and personal experiences. Wed.–Sat. through Labor Day, or by appointment.

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA LIBRARIES, 100 Main Library, Iowa City. (319) 335-5299.

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA PENTACREST MUSEUMS, University of Iowa Campus, Iowa City. (319) 335-0480. For the second year in a row, the Museum of Natural History and the Old Capitol Museum were awarded the “Best Museum” and “Best Historic Building” CRANDIC Awards. At the Museum of Natural History, tour exhibits like the Iowa Hall, a 500-million-year adventure through geological, cultural, and ecological history; the William & Eleanor Hageboeck Hall of Birds; the Biosphere Discovery Hub, exploring the relationship between people and the natural environment, and more.

VETERANS MEMORIAL BUILDING, 101 First St. SE, Mays Island, Cedar Rapids. (319) 286-5050. Open by appointment. Grant Wood Memorial Window. Despite Grant’s having limited experience with the medium of stained glass, this 20′ x 24′ window is one of his most revered works and serves as an awe-inspiring memorial to Veterans. Permanent. In Flight: The Horsky Collection of Model Airplanes. Celebrate the public return of the 185 model airplanes previously displayed at Eastern Iowa Airport. Take an in-depth look at the life of master modeler Major Robert M. Horsky, United States Air Force veteran, born and raised in Cedar Rapids. Permanent.

Also view The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Museum Resources!