Tag Archives: history

A morning at the museum

The State Historical Museum of Iowa still flies low on the radar of free fun in Des Moines. (Almost as low as the biplanes that hover in the foyer!) I’m 31 and will always be a sucker for giant Mammoth skeletons, too.

The Museum’s new “Hands on History” exhibit just for small kids makes it worth a morning trip to the East Village, especially if you’ve never been and are looking for an opportunity to keep toddlers occupied.

We first went with my mom and brother in December – but if I didn’t blog about it, did it really happen?!

This morning, the Museum hosted a free Des Moines Film Society showing of “The Secret Life of Pets” that was followed by a Q&A with a local guy who did storyboards for the movie.

They also had their new mobile museum RV in the front and my friend Michael showed us one of the prototypes for Iowa’s state flag!

I’m a total history nerd, so I appreciate the exhibits that showcase Civil War memorabilia, and also geek out at the old-school natural history exhibits.

The State Historical Museum is a must-stop for Iowa transplants such as myself looking to catch up with fun facts and state pride. The RAGBRAI exhibit is fun, and there’s also a nifty one about Iowa’s movie ties. Our next-door neighbor is the curator, which I also think is very cool. Did you know the author of the Nancy Drew books was an Iowan?

When we got home, I read the kids “The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth” a new Usborne lift-the-flap book I got at a friend’s Usborne books party. It felt fitting after our morning museum adventure!

(As a kid, I once got to sleep over at the Field Museum in Chicago and it was the coolest. “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” was also one of my favorite books during that time.)

Speaking of history – Did you see the Gaslamp is going to be hosting a “Buzzed History” series? It kicks off March 29.

Check out the State Historical Museum spring break activities after the jump.

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Filed under Family Fun, I love Des Moines

House history in a Younkers box

Our backyard neighbors were doing some cleaning and came across a Younkers box full of clippings and letters from our “house ancestors” the other week, so they literally passed it over the fence for us to check out. I don’t think “house ancestor” is a real term, but that’s how I like to think of Sec Taylor and his wife, who I’m pretty sure was named Hazel. It also helps justify my curiosity as I went through the letters, articles and photographs.

Scan from the Des Moines Register archives

Joe and I have known about the Taylor connection since we first spotted the house on Zillow in 2009. Sec Taylor was a longtime sports editor at The Des Moines Register and Des Moines’ Iowa Cubs stadium was originally named after him, so he was a local celebrity about town, especially in the first half of the 20th century. Having a kind of house ancestry is one of the reasons I fell in love with our home in the first place, in addition to its cuteness, built-ins and our location on a leafy central Des Moines boulevard. We found a few photos of Sec in the Register’s archives when we worked there, and did a tiny bit of research on him and his work at the Des Moines Public Library. (They have some great local history info online.)

The box contained some mundane but fascinating correspondence among Sec’s siblings about what to do with a farm in Kansas that their father had passed on without a will (and under which there was the possibility of an oil strike), and fun surprises, like a photo of Sec Taylor and some Milwaukee Braves players, one of whom happens to be Hank Aaron. Or so thinks Joe, because I have no idea.

There were also clippings from Helen Hazel Rex’s society page writings for (we think) the newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. “Will you stand for a bit of scandal? I’ll try you one…” It’s funny stuff I can’t believe she got away with writing in such a small city. She would have been one snarky blogger.

The box also contained some glamour shots of Miss America, 1954, and photos of Sec at various hob-nobby looking functions with people holding an Oscar and in front of a model horse track. I think the Braves photo will go in a frame near our Iowa Cubs art, but I’m not sure what we’ll do with the rest of it. We’ll have to talk to Leo, our next-door neighbor who is curator for the Salisbury House!

Do any of you know the stories of your home’s ancestors?

Baseball photo update from Leo: ‎”44 is definitely Hammerin’ Hank. 21 is Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, 41 is HoFer Eddie Matthews, and only player to play for Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves and Atlanta Braves. Pretty sure Frank Torre is on the left, possibly is 1957 or 1958 World Series.” I’ll tell you, having a museum curator/bacon expert as a next-door neighbor never fails me. Thanks, Leo!

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