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Riding Through History Exhibit Captures Attention of Riders

Posted August 16, 2013 in Downtown, Community Web Exclusives

DES MOINES – The new Riding Through History exhibit at the State Historical Museum caught the attention of thousands of riders as they passed through the capital city. The exhibit opened to the public on July 19.  Bike enthusiasts, RAGBRAI rider hosts, history lovers and the reporters who shared their stories over four decades have already experienced the new exhibit.

The newly opened exhibit was developed in partnership with the Des Moines Register and Register Media, who ensure RAGBRAI’s tradition continues as the longest, largest and oldest bicycle event in the world. The museum plans to keep the exhibit open for several years and will add components such as the innovative stop motion animation version of this year’s RAGBRAI experience created by Tiny Circus through a collaboration with the Iowa Arts Council.

Visitors and riders are sharing notes in the exhibit and on social media as best expressed by a rider from Dover, NH, who is a member of Team Whiner, a team in their 36th year of RAGBRAI.  (see attached photo of Curator Leo Landis with Team Whiners in the Riding Through History Exhibit)

The rider was quoted saying the following:
“I had been looking forward to seeing the exhibit from the moment I heard about it on the RAGBRAI Facebook page!  The Whiners have been part of RAGBRAI for 36 years, 5 years less than the ride itself, and we are truly honored to be featured.  What a special treat to be met by Leo for a personal tour the morning after RAGBRAI came through Des Moines.  The exhibit is beautiful!  It was a delight to hear the old stories, see the old bikes and memorabilia and learn the history of a ride that has come to mean so much to me personally and the Whiners as a group.  My trip across Iowa would not have been complete had I not been able to see the exhibit.  Thank you to all who made the exhibit possible!”

Visitors to the museum can explore the history of cycling in Iowa at the State Historical Museum of Iowa’s newest exhibition, Riding Through History. The 3,000-square-foot exhibition showcases artifacts, stories, photos and videos that reflect the cycling experience in Iowa, including a bicycle from 1869 owned by Wesley Redhead, one of the first ridden in the state. The exhibition also highlights RAGBRAI© as one of Iowa’s iconic traditions, largest cultural events and economic drivers. Tens of thousands of Iowans are connected to this topic through their participation as a RAGBRAI rider, resident of a town on the RAGBRAI route or simply being a cyclist who enjoys Iowa’s trails.

Newly Rotated Battle Flags in Iowa and the Civil War
The Museum is displaying recently rotated battle flags in celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the anniversaries of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address.  The Iowa and the Civil War battle flag exhibit gallery features flags that have been conserved and artifacts from the Grand Army of the Republic where visitors will learn more about the importance of this group and the role it played in Iowa’s history.  The battle flags are complemented by the popular Iowa and the Civil War main exhibit gallery which allows visitors to discover the stories of Iowa and those who served during America’s bloodiest conflict.  With more than 300 authentic artifacts and documents, this 10,000 square-foot exhibition recounts the first-hand experiences of Iowans at war and the communities that supported them.  See the historic battle flags Iowa troops carried into battle and the actual weaponry – cannons, guns and swords – they used while fighting in some of the most important events and turning points of the Civil War.

Rarely Seen
The museum will continue its plans to rotate exhibits so visitors can catch one more look at the second level exhibit Rarely Seen:  Cool Stuff From the Museum, an exhibit featuring more than 125 historical objects that showcase famous people, places or events from Iowa’s history.  From common everyday objects to objects that are unique and innovative, the exhibit gives a glimpse into the vast 100,000 object collection cared for by the State Historical Museum of Iowa.  After being on display for more than four years, Rarely Seen will officially close to the public on Sunday, August 18.

A Service to Silver:  Tribute to the USS Iowa
Visitors can see the newly conserved 40-piece silver service in its new exhibit display at the State Historical Museum.  The silver service was presented by Iowa to the U.S. Navy in 1896 for the then newly-commissioned USS Iowa battleship.

Iowans can now view the artist-created moquette of the statue of Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009), which will be placed in the U.S. Capitol Building next year. Benjamin Victor, commissioned last fall by the Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Statue Committee, is an internationally-recognized artist with a long list of sculpture credits. At age 26, he became the youngest artist to have a statue placed in the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall – the nation’s foremost collection of figurative sculpture – when he completed a 6’4” statue of Sarah Winnemucca for the state of Nevada.

For more information, contact the State Historical Museum Director, Susan Kloewer at or call (515) 281-5111.

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