Online resources on Iowa history that resonate with teachers and families

The State Historical Society collection exceeds 3 million views

Online resources on Iowa history that resonate with teachers and families
Online resources on Iowa history that resonate with teachers and families

DES MOINES — Iowa educators are using a new tool to teach Iowa history, and it’s taking hold in classrooms across the state — and among families.

A dedicated online collection of history classroom materials has been viewed more than 3 million times since the State Historical Society of Iowa began curating it five years ago. He surpassed that mark in mid-October, designated National Arts & Humanities Month.

The Primary Source Sets—photos, maps, documents, audio recordings, and even cartoons—cover more than 65 broad topics about Iowa and its role in later national and world history, including the Underground Railroad, women’s suffrage, the Cold War, and the congregations in Iowa.

“We want to give teachers, students, and families across the state the opportunity to learn more about the history of Iowa and provide them with a variety of resources to help them do that,” said Susan Kloewer, administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa, in a press release.

“We served Iowa online before demand for distance learning and online programs accelerated over the past two years, and now we are well positioned to continue our role as the go-to place for history education in Iowa.”

The collection includes materials from the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Library of Congress, which also supported the project with two major grants.

“Over the years, the State Historical Society of Iowa has created a rich collection of educational materials to help students explore Iowa history from a local, regional, and national perspective,” noted Vivian Awumey, who directs education and outreach programs at the Library of Congress managed.

“The Library of Congress staff commends the State Historical Society of Iowa for effectively meeting the needs of Iowa teachers for quality teaching materials, as evidenced by the 3 million downloads of primary source sets, guides, and kits they support as part of Teaching with Primary Sources program,” added Awumey.

Experts from the Historical Society, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, started the project in 2017 to help Iowa teachers explore history with a new generation of K-12 students. Teachers can search the collection to find specific topics and materials that conform to the Iowa Core Content Standards for Social Studies.

Each primary source set contains a set of questions to help students examine facts, evaluate evidence, and think critically about complex problems.

“The (sets) have revolutionized the way I teach social studies methods,” said Chad William Timm, associate professor of teacher education at Simpson College in Indianola. “I can show my students examples of how to integrate primary source work into units that are designed around good, persuasive, and supportive questions.”

The Primary Sources Sets are part of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s online and virtual educational resources, including Iowa History 101 webinars, an online Iowa history book club, and various Goldie’s Kids Club activities for children and families.

The Society also updated and expanded its Iowa History Online Collections Catalog, which provides access to more than 200 million history items in the state’s collection.

All of Society’s educational resources are freely accessible and downloadable for educators, students, families and lifelong learners.

For more information about these resources, see

These Keokuk County kids will ride a horse-drawn bus to Webster Consolidated School in 1928. The county seat of southeastern Iowa is Sigourney, not Keokuk, which is further south. Iowa State Historical Society)

This 1958 photo shows a black student taking high school lessons over television in Little Rock, Ark., after state laws creating separate public schools for black and white students were found unconstitutional. (Library of Congress)