When the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and
Visitors Bureau named the Johnson County Historical Society the
2006 Attraction of the Year, it was doing more than simply
praising the society's expanded museum in the Iowa River
Landing. Although the museum now has more space for display and
storage than it ever did when housed in Coralville's 1876
schoolhouse, its broader community impact comes in how the
historical society and museum staff have been working with other
groups to offer a wide variety of opportunities for entertaining
and educating local residents.
benefits to the society are clear. The museum's attendance
figures have skyrocketed because of the location, and as a
result, more people have seen firsthand just how the society can
help preserve their family's memory for future generations. The
museum also provides a welcome service for those visitors to the
other facilities located on the Iowa River Landing --
specifically to the convention goers at the Coralville Marriott
Hotel & Conference Center and to the visitors to the Antique Car
Museum, which shares a building and staff with the museum. It's
a win-win-win situation.
On top of all this, the relocation of the
society's storage and offices has allowed Coralville's old
one-room schoolhouse to become a devoted site for historical
interpretation and exploration. The first floor already has been
restored to resemble the school's early decades, and the upper
floor is in the process of being restored to period right before
the school closed. The society also facilities an award-winning
program in which fifth-graders from throughout the Iowa City
School District can get a taste of the one-room scholastic
experience of their grandparents and great-great-grandparents.
Plans are under way to offer more of such programs.
The schoolhouse joins the society's other
devoted sites -- the Johnson County Poor Farm/Asylum and Plum
Grove, the home of Iowa's first territorial governor, Robert
Lucas -- to help interpret the past for area residents. The
society seems to have developed a critical mass of local and
In the next few years, the museum will
relocate again to a larger facility still to be built. But
Executive Director Margaret Wieting said she doesn't look at the
current space as temporary in any way. Instead, with the new
opportunities for display and convenience, she's enjoying
introducing more and more people to a society that has been
active in the area since 1967.
We're glad the society has seen recent
increases in participation and awards, and we encourage
community members and groups to check it out -- both as a series
of attractions and for the vision clearly on display.