This intriguing attraction proves that local history isn’t only for locals. A cornerstone of the Capitol area for more than 25 years, the “new” State Historical Museum (as long-time Des Moines residents still call it) offers a glimpse of significant people and events in Iowa history.
A replica of a huge woolly mammoth greets visitors as they enter the three-story atrium, and a trio of antique aircraft suspended from the ceiling pays tribute to Iowa’s aviation pioneers. Some exhibits reflect special interests—the development of Iowa’s reputed insurance industry, for example. Others, such as a 10,000-square-foot Civil War section, weave Iowa stories into a broader national context. Here, artifacts include weapons, medical instruments, flags and an authentic soldier camp scene. The Delicate Balance display explores the complex relationship between humans and natural resources, touching on settlement, the mining industry, wildlife and the environment.
Patrons look out on state Capitol and downtown from an outdoor terrace of Cafe Barratta’s where they dine on sandwiches, pastas, soups, salads and desserts. During summer months, concerts and special events liven up the stair-stepped terraces around the building.