Local History Museum


A Future Ames History Center?


On December 8, 1916, a front page article in the Ames Evening Times cited the loss of "curios and articles wrapped in historical interest" and stated "There is no time like the present to start a museum for Ames ... to preserve pioneer history."

That call went unanswered for seventy-four years when, in 1980, Ames historian Farwell Brown established Ames Heritage Association to serve as the local historical society (now renamed Ames Historical Society).  Since then, two historic structures have been restored, but serious efforts to collect archival materials and priceless artifacts did not begin until 1999.

Why so late?  Those here today simply do not know!  The effort that was deemed pressing in 1916 is even more so today.

To save rapidly disappearing historic articles, Ames Historical Society urgently needs space for proper storage and display.  Recent success in acquiring collections has forced the Society to convert limited exhibit space to storage and processing.  Items are stored in approximately 1200 square feet of rented space at three different locations.  Space up to 5,000 square feet is needed to process and store materials.

Artifacts deteriorate and disappear without warning.  Last summer the 60-year Ames Tribune photo archive was rescued in the nick of time before acid deterioration destroyed the oldest images.  Items from the 1919 Ames Theatre were salvaged as the renovation dust was literally falling on the collector.  The Society may already have lost a chance to acquire the unique Ruedenberg puppet collection for lack of exhibit space.  Older residents are passing on weekly taking their untold stories with them.  An historical society without a history center cannot leave a permanent legacy.


  • · A local museum preserves history
    A history center can assist researchers in reconstructing the past.  Stories of Ames’ development are fascinating – the roles of the early railroads and highways, shaky land deals, progressive citizens, unique organizations and businesses.  By discovering the past we can more fully appreciate the present.
  • History centers establish a sense of place
    The importance of "a sense of place" is well established in attracting resident and businesses to locate and remain in locales.  History, more than any other factor, defines such a concept.
  • History Centers educate newcomers & youth
    Local history allows residents to understand their chosen town better.  Youth exposed early to history develop a life-long interest in historical subjects.
  • History centers showcase the contributions of resident/businesses
    Through time, local entrepreneurs have helped make Ames what it is today.  Some were born and raised here, others made Ames their hometown of choice.  All left a mark and are worthy of having their stories told.  There are lessons in perseverance in overcoming obstacles as well as humor in boondoggles.
  •  Local collectors are assured a legacy
    There are unique collections in Ames, such as antique and vintage autos, farm implements, automatic musical instruments, old bottles and glass, Lincoln Highway memorabilia.  A secure museum with environmental controls and open hours would guarantee a legacy for a lifetime of collecting.
  • A local history center promotes pride in the community
    Residents take great pride in Ames.  A history center is one more vehicle for expressing that pride.  Volunteer docents enjoy explaining exhibits and reflecting on the special attributes of this community.
  • A local history center encourages tourism
    Historical museums draw tourists.  Observe those in Des Moines, Decorah, Mount Pleasant, Pella, or our close neighbor, Maxwell.  Visitors to the Main Street Cultural District will patronize the antique mall, the restaurants, the Octagon, Public Library, and Historic Old Town.  An Ames History Center in the Cultural District could be the crowning touch of a memorable visit to downtown.
  • Museums improve the local economy
    Visitors spend money on admissions, merchandise, food and lodging, benefitting the entire community.


Membership dues alone cannot support our pressing needs.  Unrestricted support is essential for the growth of the Society.  You can help by:

  • Taking Out a Membership in the Ames Historical Society
    A number of the Society’s basic functions are supported by simple memberships.
  • Donating to the Building Procurement Fund
    A separate account has been established at First National Bank to receive contributions.
  • Contributing to the Programming Endowment
    Once a history center is established, a Programming Endowment is critically needed to fund paid staff, engage in preservation work, and create interpretive exhibits for the public.
  • Giving Historical Materials
    The Society needs your artifacts, archival materials, and personal recollections to help document the past.  We also have an obligation to preserve important materials from the present.  There will be no antiques from this generation if they are not preserved now.  Contact the Collections Curator at 515 232-2148 or 233-1404 to discuss gifts to the collections.

Donations are tax deductible based on the non-profit 501(c)3 status of the Society.


Contemporary history centers have moved beyond the older concept of a museum with rows of locked cases containing artifacts out of context.  Thematic and interactive exhibits united with a research archives is now the norm.  Exhibit modules would illustrate themes such as:

Topography, geology, climate, flora & fauna

Pre-history, early settlement

Creation of Ada Hayden Heritage Park, history of Ames Fire and Police Departments, establishment of Mary Greeley Hospital

Rural one-room schools (Hoggatt, Oakwood, Clearview, etc.), elementary schools (Beardshear, Roosevelt, Crawford), Central Junior High School, Ames High School

Collegiate Manufacturing, Carr Hardware, Judisch Bros. Drug Store, Munn Lumber, General Filter, Hach Chemical, Black’s Hybrid Seed Corn, Carr’s Pool,  banks, restaurants, neighborhood groceries

Churches, social clubs (KK, Mono Clan, Clark Avenue), cultural groups (Ames Women’s Theatre, Puppet Perch)

Families (Brown, Tilden, Adams, Jameson, Cole, etc.) Individuals (Billy Sunday, Neta Snook, Dick Schory, Peter Schickele, Nick Nolte, Joseph Lawlor, Carl Ringgenberg)

Cars and roads (Lincoln Highway through Ames) Trains and railways (Ames & College, C&NW, Ames switchyards, streetcars) Airplanes and airports (Howard Flying Service)

Chautauqua, Ames Centennial, Gingko Festival, Iowa Games, City Hall Bombing, Floods, sports

World wars, society in various eras