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State Historical Society of Iowa’s Jerome Thompson receives highest award for historic preservation and interpretation

Posted September 22, 2014 in Web Exclusives

DES MOINES – The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) presented Jerome Thompson of the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) with a Leadership in History Award Friday, its most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. SHSI is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA).

Thompson received AASLH’s Leadership in History Award committee’s “Award of Merit” for his lifetime commitment to preserving the history of the state of Iowa, and excellence in history programs, projects and people. The award presentation came at a special banquet during the 2014 AASLH Annual Meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We are proud and pleased the American Association for State and Local History has awarded this honor to Jerome,” DCA Director Mary Cownie said. “He has worked more than 30 years in numerous capacities for the State Historical Society and Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, preserving and interpreting Iowa history for Iowans and guests and colleagues from across the country and around the world. We congratulate him for receiving this well-deserved recognition.”

Thompson was nominated for the award by a colleague, Kathy Gourley, and said he was taken by surprise to receive the notification letter from AASLH.

“I had no idea colleagues of mine had considered my work to be that worthy,” he said. “My time working in Iowa has been enriching for me personally and my satisfaction is not gauged in awards, it’s gauged in what my work has been able to contribute to Iowa heritage preservation. I have been an individual member of AASLH for 30 years and am honored to be included among predecessors of mine who were mentors to me when I was starting out in the field.”

Thompson joined SHSI in 1982 as Historic Sites Coordinator, overseeing the growth and development of SHSI’s historic sites across the state. Under his management, SHSI added the Matthew Edel Blacksmith Shop, the American Gothic House, the Western Historic Trails Center interpretive center, and the Blood Run National Historic Landmark to its collection of historic sites.

In 1987, Thompson also became Museum Bureau Chief when the new State Historical Building opened in 1987. Under his supervision, the State Historical Museum of Iowa’s entire collection of nearly 100,000 artifacts and documents was moved into the new building.

In addition, he served as SHSI Interim Administrator, Interim State Historic Preservation Officer and the Interim State Archivist from 2008 to 2012, when he returned to his regular duties as State Curator.

In his role as State Curator, Thompson continues to oversee SHSI’s eight historic sites and works with historical museums, organizations and associations throughout Iowa, offering technical assistance and consultation service for best practices of historic preservation, education and outreach.

The Leadership in History 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 America. Each nomination is peer-reviewed by AASLH’s state captains. Final awards are decided by the Awards Committee, comprised of AASLH’s 14 regional representatives and the National Awards Chair. This year, AASLH conferred 77 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books and organizations.

See more at: More information about SHSI is available at

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