Hours & Location
Ames History Center
416 Douglas, #101
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am - 4:00pm
18th Street & Burnett Avenue
Open Sundays, June 4 through August 13, 2:00-4:00pm
The mission of the Ames Historical Society is to engage our diverse public and provide unique opportunities to learn about Ames history.
We carry out this mission by:
- staffing the Ames History Center where archives, artifact collections, exhibits, and research assistance are available;
- providing tours, programs, publications, and extensive website;
- operating an 1860s one-room schoolhouse museum.
To make Ames history compelling and relevant to current and future generations, we envision the Ames History Center setting exemplary standards for quality interactions and authoritative presentations that reveal the unique Ames story.
- In all interactions with the public, we value accuracy, openness, transparency, stewardship and respect for those that embody the Ames story.
- We value strategic partnerships and collaborations with our cultural peers (libraries, archives, art centers, museums, media, and more).
- We value professionalism and adherence to museum standards.
Ames Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1980 as Ames Heritage Association. Our founder was Ames historian, Farwell T. Brown, whose historical writings and research have inspired residents to appreciate and preserve the history of Ames. The immediate impetus for founding of the Association was the opportunity to save and restore Ames’ first schoolhouse, Hoggatt School. Other ventures have included the Bauge Log Home and the Story Center pilot museum. The organization's name was changed to Ames Historical Society in 2003. The Society currently maintains the Ames History Center and Hoggatt School. Now with three full-time staff members, the Society provides preservation for a collection of archives and artifacts, exhibits, research assistance, and programming to connect Ames residents and visitors with the past.
- Preserve Ames history - The Society collects archival material and artifacts to document city government, schools, businesses, organizations, residents, transportation, and events and celebrations throughout Ames history. Our Acquisition Policy provides more detailed information about the types of material collected, with specific examples of each. Oral histories documenting memories of Ames residents are recorded, transcribed, and avaialble for checkout at the Ames History Center.
- Provide reference service - Questions come to us daily by email, correspondence, phone and walk-in traffic. The massive photo archive of the Ames Tribune coupled with our own extensive photo collection allow us to supply images to individuals, businesses, and media organizations. Besides photos, our collections of maps, directories, school yearbooks, newspapers, building plans, Multiple Listing Service sheets, and WWII Story County veterans’ service records enable us to answer hundreds of questions annually.
- Maintain a website - The "virtual" concept for sharing our collections is well illustrated by our website containing thousands of pages of content available 24/7/365 to anyone with connectivity.
- Operate a one-room school museum - Hoggatt School was the first schoolhouse in the vicinity. It was built in 1861-1862 to serve residents before the city of Ames was established. The acquisition, move, and restoration of this school were the driving forces in the founding of the Society. In 1981, the log-frame building was moved to its present location on the grounds of Meeker School. Furnishings, fixtures, textbooks and other artifacts reflect the period of the 1860s. The school is open to the public on Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. during the summer, and is available for pre-arranged visits from April 1 to October 31. Visitors can sit at desks, write on slates, view a typical day’s schedule, or read a McGuffey’s reader to gain a feeling for nineteenth-century education.
- Publish a quarterly newsletter for members - A typical issue contains news of past and future activities, readers’ mail and recollections, collection additions, and history articles (sometimes written by members or guest authors).
- Provide photos to the Ames Tribune - The weekly "From the Archives" photo series has been running since 2006. Residents and non-residents alike express appreciation for these popular reminders of Ames life in days past. All images and related supplementary material are archived on our website.
- Loan exhibits - At various times staff members have created a variety of exhibit panels that can be loaned at no charge to Ames organizations. Panels consist of photographs, copies of original documents, and text mounted on foam core. Topics include: Ames Names, Main Street Stories, Carr’s Pool, The Railroad in Ames, Billy Sunday, and many others.
- Present programs - Local organizations may request programs on a number of specific topics. Presentations frequently combine PowerPoint images with objects. A monthly lecture series is open to the public from March through June. Topics have included: All the Smoke and Cinders You’ll Ever Want: Ames & College Railway’s "Dinkey," Historical Whatchamacallits & Thingamajigs, The McFarland Clinic Story, The Carr Family and Carr’s Pool, and Who Killed Henry Chavis? A presentation specialty has evolved in our customized PowerPoint shows given as banquet programs for Ames High School class reunions. Images from our collections are combined with scanned, class-supplied photos to prompt nostalgic recollections and audience interaction. In 2015, 48 presentations were attended by over 1600 people.
- Host events - Yearly events include an ice cream social, preservation workshops, Members After Hours, and participating in community events such as the Main Street Farmers' Market and ArtWalk.
- Educate youth - Primary school children cannot always make field trips to our headquarters, so staff members utilize our history trailer to take selected objects and archival material to the classrooms. This effort complements the Ames School District third grade unit on local history. Cub Scout dens delight in the hands-on experience given onsite by our staff. By engaging this age group with activities that are both fun and educational, a new generation is cultivated that values the contributions of the past and views local history as important. Middle school, high school, and college students also make use of our resources for special projects, such as National History Day projects.
- Cooperate with other cultural organizations - The Society maintains a close working relationship with its companion organizations in the Main Street Cultural District: the Ames Public Library and the Octagon Center for the Arts. Special programs and exhibits are co-sponsored annually with the Library and Octagon and on-going consultation occurs regarding collection development and reference questions. We collaborate with other organizations, such as Iowa State University Archives & Special Collections and the State Historical Society of Iowa, on preservation and storage issues. We also participate in the Iowa Museum Association and the Story County Historical Alliance.
- Sell publications and gift items - The museum shop focuses on items illuminating Ames history. Print items include all of Farwell Brown’s books, Images of America: Ames, and three different walking tour brochures. Popular gift items are postcards of historic Ames images, T-shirts, magnets, and our special Onondaga Blend coffee.
Other funding sources include support from the City of Ames and Story County (22% of our annual budget), grants and endowment (5%), and earned income from services, gift shop, and building maintenance (10%).
Click here to see our 2015 annual report.