‘First in The Nation’ Exhibit Explores History of Iowa Caucuses

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DES MOINES, Iowa – The State Historical Museum of Iowa has opened an exhibit surrounding the history of the Iowa Caucuses.

First in The Nation’ showcases more than 100 artifacts from 1972 to 2016.

Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Communications Manager Michael Morain said caucusing in Iowa dates back to 1846, but what people see now started back in 1976 when Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter heavily campaigned in the state.

“He sort of set the model and after that, candidates really decided to invest time and energy and money in Iowa,” Morain said.

In 1972, Iowa became the first in the nation for the caucuses.

People will find a selfie station of their favorite 2020 presidential candidates, see yard signs through the years, and a button collection donated by Iowa Public Television Host David Yepsen.

“When we think about technology there are all new kinds of social media tools to communicate and spread the word about a campaign, but sometimes the low-tech things buttons have not changed much from one year to the next,” Morain said.

Morain said the exhibit gives out-of-staters a glimpse into how important the caucuses are to Iowans.

“In some ways it defines who we are as Iowans. Iowans take it very seriously. We do our homework, we ask questions of the candidates, lots of people don’t make a decision until they have shaken hands with candidates,” Morain said.

There will be surrounding events hosted by the State Historical Museum in conjunction with the exhibit which includes:

  • Monday October 14th - ‘Caucus Iowa: Journey to the Presidency’
    • Iowa Public Television Documentary
    • 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
    • State Historical Museum of Iowa
  • Thursday October 17th – Women in Politics
    • Influential Iowa Women discuss how women have shaped national and local politics on a panel
    • 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
    • State Historical Museum of Iowa
  • Thursday November 7th and 8th – History Alive: Laws, Rights and Elections
    • 4th and 5th grade students invited to see how democracy works
    • 10:00 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.
    • Iowa State Capitol
  • Sunday January 5th – History and Horse Race
    • Panel discusses past and current predictions for politics in the nation
    • 1:00 to 3:30 p.m.
    • State Historical Museum of Iowa
  • Thursday January 23rd – History on the Rocks: Caucus and Cocktails
    • Guests participate in a mock caucus
    • 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
    • State Historical Museum of Iowa

There will be a traveling exhibit through the month of November at Drake University and Northern Iowa’s Rod Library as an extension to ‘First in the Nation.’

‘First in the Nation’ is free and open to the public now through the February during normal business hours.

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