Iowa Museum Association's Teaching Iowa History Receives 2021 AASLH Award of Excellence

The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces that the Iowa Museum Association is the recipient of an Award of Excellence for Teaching Iowa History. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 76th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.

Teaching Iowa History leverages the resources of Iowa museums to support K-12 educators in teaching Iowa history by harnessing the stewardship and educational power of museums. It combines the fascinating objects in museum collections with grade-specific standards-based lessons, while bringing national history into perspective through the lens of local Iowa stories. 

Teaching Iowa History has created a significant body of work that incorporates three key components – a primary source database, instructional resources and Iowa history narratives. Over 100 museums have participated in building a database of more than 1,000 primary sources to date – the project is ongoing and still accepting images of primary sources. This database increases access to Iowa museum collections and brings the stories their objects tell to students, educators, researchers and the public.

The University of Northern Iowa (UNI), Iowa’s leading teacher education university, is an important partner in Teaching Iowa History, with UNI history education students writing grade 7-12 lesson plans that incorporate primary sources from the database and meet Iowa Social Studies standards. Simpson College is another important partner, with Simpson College students writing grade K-6 lesson plans. Over 70 lesson plans for a variety of grades and social studies standards have been produced to date, and as the project continues, additional lessons will be developed. As pre-service teachers were learning to write lesson plans, they were also learning Iowa history, and how to teach history with primary sources. All lesson plans are vetted by skilled faculty and approved for release prior to being posted. Narrative essays (Iowa stories) are also submitted by knowledgeable academic and public historians, in order to fulfill teacher needs for context. A fully searchable digital encyclopedia style website brings all these components together in a single, user-friendly environment. 

The University of Iowa Museum Studies program, Iowa PBS and Graceland University are additional key partners in the development of Teaching Iowa History, each partner contributing expertise and resources to the success of the project. The menu item “Online Resources from around Iowa” includes links to many exciting Iowa history projects, including Iowa PBS's Time Travel Iowa and FIND Iowa.

To aid educators in using the resources created by the project, the Teaching Iowa History website includes five professional development modules that include videos, activities and resources presenting a variety of ways to use and engage with Teaching Iowa History

The most recent addition to the program is a virtual exhibit component that brings together primary sources and contextual information in a ten-item exhibit. As this component develops, it will provide an opportunity for museum studies classes to hone exhibit development skills and will add a layer of content for K-12 classroom use.

Teaching Iowa History is the topic of a chapter in the soon to be published text Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K–12 Audiences: How to Connect with Teachers and Engage Students, edited by Tara Young (October, 2021).

Teaching Iowa History is an ongoing program. For more information contact the Iowa Museum Association at 319.239.2236 or visit

This year, AASLH is proud to confer thirty-eight national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history.

The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions and programs to make contributions in this arena. For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or visit

Founded in 1976, the Iowa Museum Association (IMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. From its office in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the IMA provides a voice for museums and a communication network for those who work and volunteer in them. The Iowa Museum Association provides professional development, mentoring, workshops, convenings, an annual conference and technical support to build capacity in all aspects of museum work. Iowa museums make Iowa communities special and unique places to live and work, enhancing Iowa's tourism economy, preserving Iowa history, arts and culture, and strengthening communities as key community anchor organizations. It is the vision of the Iowa Museum Association that museums of all types are acknowledged as essential components of their communities. For more information contact the Iowa Museum Association at 319.239.2236 or visit

The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history. From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH provides leadership, service and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people. AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine and maintains numerous affinity communities and committees serving a broad range of constituents across the historical community. The association also sponsors an annual meeting, regional and national training in-person workshops, and online training.