State Historical Society of Iowa

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Welcome to the State Historical Society of Iowa

State Historical Society of Iowa

The State Historical Society of Iowa mission is to create and foster an interest in Iowa History genealogy and to aid others in researching their family history.

The State Historical Society of Iowa, formerly known as Iowa Historical Society or Iowa State Department of History and Archives has two centers. One is in Des Moines, the other in Iowa City. The Centers have many similar collections, and they share a website and a catalog.

State Historical Society Iowa.JPG

State Historical Society of Iowa
(Des Moines)
600 E. Locust St.
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: 515-281-6200
Fax: 515-282-0502
Open Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Thursday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Friday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Saturday: 9:00am-4:30pm

Group Visits: welcomed

Website: Iowa History
SHSI Iowa City.jpg

State Historical Society of Iowa
(Iowa City)
402 Iowa Ave.
Iowa City, IA 52240
Phone: 319-335-3916
Fax: 319-335-3935
Open Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Thursday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Friday: 9:00am-4:30pm
Saturday: 9:00am-4:30pm

Group Visits: welcomed

Website: Iowa History

Building Info and Hours[edit | edit source]

Biggest collection of county records on microfilm, including book, manuscripts, and periodicals—the starting place for Iowa genealogists.

Holiday Schedule[edit | edit source]

Closed official state holidays.

Holiday 2020 Schedule: Days Closed

  • Saturday, May 23
  • Saturday, Sep 5
  • Friday, Nov 14
  • Thursday-Saturday, Nov 25-28
  • Saturday, Dec 26
  • Saturday, Jan 2

Additional Days Open

Tours[edit | edit source]

Group visits are welcome to come.

Tips[edit | edit source]

  • Upon arrival, sign the daily visitor registration log.
  • Store your coat, purse, briefcase, fanny pack, equipment case or other similar items in one of the lockers provided. Lockers take two quarters that are automatically refunded when you return the key. Clear plastic bags for storing personal items are provided.
  • All personal notes and equipment are subject to search when you leave the center.
  • Bring a pencil. Pens or markers of any type are not permitted in the center. Pencils are provided.
  • Food or beverages are not allowed in the Research Center and smoking is prohibited on the State Capitol Complex. A break area and vending machines are located in the lobby.
  • Collections in the closed stack area may be retrieved by filling out a call slip for each item at the main desk.
  • Photocopy service is provided for materials under the care of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Copies of maps, manuscripts, photographs and state archives materials are available unless prohibited by copyright or curatorial restrictions.
  • Maps, manuscripts, photographs and state archives materials are unavailable on Saturdays unless requested by noon on the preceding Friday.
  • You may use an audio recorder, laptop, tablet or camera. Please check with the staff to ensure your equipment doesn't inconvenience others.
  • The staff will re-shelve materials, please leave materials on the provided carts when you are finished.
  • All collections must stay in the research center and cannot be checked out or taken to another area of the building.
  • Collections from the other State Historical Society Research Center are sometimes available through loans.

The Special Collections rooms of the facilities include manuscript records of the state, government records, photographs, newspapers, and more. They also have family histories in book and manuscript form.

Hardware/Equipment and Collection[edit | edit source]

Des Moines Center:

  • 4 computers (internet access), 1 printer, 1 photo copier, 13 overhead microfilm readers, 1 microfiche readers and 2 microfiche reader/microfilm scanner.

There are about 80,000 books, lots of microfilm and newspapers, 5,000 ft. of manuscripts and 20,000 ft. of State Archives material.

Iowa City Center:

  • 8 computers (internet access), 2 printers, 2 photo copiers, 8 overhead microfilm readers, 3 microfiche readers 3 microfiche reader/microfilm scanner (1 to capture PDF files of frames) and 2 OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) computer terminals for access to WWW and InfoHawk online catalog.

There are over 160,000 books and pamphlets; 10,000 bound volumes of newspapers, and thousands of microfilm reels along with over 5,000 ft. of manuscripts or primary sources.

Interlibrary Loans[edit | edit source]

The State Historical Society of Iowa Research Centers lends microfilm of newspapers, census records and other materials listed below to your local library. Other collections, including books and printed materials, are only available at the Research Centers, however materials may be sent to the center that is most convenient for you.

How to Make a Request

Identify which Research Center holds the microfilm you wish to borrow. Visit your local library to make an interlibrary loan request. Ensure that the library submits the request using the American Library Association (ALA) approved form and includes a return-shipping label. Send the request form to the appropriate Research Center.

Interlibrary Loan State Historical Society of Iowa 600 E Locust St. Des Moines, IA 50319-0290 (515) 281-6200

Interlibrary Loan State Historical Society of Iowa 402 Iowa Ave. Iowa City, IA 52240-1806 (319) 335-3916

Inter-library loans rentals from other states to Historical Society of Iowa
State Cost Fee State Cost Fee
Alabama Data not available Montana $10.00 ea (up to 5)
Alaska $10.00 ea (up to 5) Nebraska Data not available
Arizona Free for 2 rolls Nevada Data not available
Arkansas Does Not Send New Hampshire Data not available
California Free for 12 rolls New Jersey Does Not Send
Colorado Data not available New Mexico Free for 3 rolls
Connecticut Data not available New York $20.00 ea (up to 5)
Delaware Data not available North Carolina Data not available
Florida Data not available North Dakota $4.00 ea (up to 5)
Georgia $15.00 ea (up to 5) Ohio $5.00 ea (up to 5)
Hawaii Data Not Available Oklahoma Does Not Send
Idaho $10.00 ea (up to 5) Oregon Free for one
Illinois $5 for 5 rolls Pennsylvania Data Not Available
Indiana $10.00 for one Montana Data Not Available
Iowa home South Carolina Data Not Available
Kansas Does Not Send South Dakota $8.00 ea (up to 4)
Kentucky Does Not Send Tennessee Does Not Send
Louisiana Data Not Available Texas Free for one
Maine Data Not Available Utah Data Not Available
Maryland Data Not Available Vermont Data Not Available
Massachusetts Data Not Available Virginia Free for 5 Rolls
Michigan Data Not Available Washington Free for 5 Rolls
Minnesota $3 ea + 2.50 postage (up to 6) West Virginia Does Not Send
Mississippi Data Not Available Wisconsin $20.00 ea (up to 6)
Missouri $15.00 for one Wyoming Data Not Available
D of C Data Not available


DM Center


General history books for Iowa and other states; city directories; plat maps; cemetery surveys; biographies and memoirs; school yearbooks; selected government documents; and extensive genealogy resources are available in the libraries; periodicals.


Iowa Federal and State Censuses are available for 1840, 1850, 1856, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885, 1900, 1910, 1915, 1920 and 1930. Special schedules: Mortality, agricultural, industrial, and social census records for selected years in the libraries’ reading rooms.
Iowa Mortality Schedules are available for 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Family Search,
Iowa State Census, Special Censuses 1836-1860
Iowa State Census 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 Family Search,
United States Census 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940 Family Search,

Other Materials[edit | edit source]

Photo Collections - about a half million from daguerreotype to digital. A webpage has been created on the Flickr's photo-sharing site to showcase some representative portions of the holding.
Newspapers - from hundreds of communities from all of Iowa’s 99 counties from 1836 to the present. The collection features several foreign language and special interest newspapers published in Iowa.
County government records - including marriage, birth and death records, naturalization papers and land deeds. Microfilm copies of many of these county records are available in the libraries’ reading rooms.
Manuscript, Audio-Visual and Map Collections - including collections of personal papers; records of organizations an extensive photograph collections; and maps.
Census materials - Both state and federal from 1840 through 1930. Special schedules: Mortality, agricultural, industrial, and social census records for selected years.
Digital Collections - Maps, children's diaries, photographs, and more.

Statewide Searchable Databases[edit | edit source]

Additional obituaries continue to be added on a regular basis.

Publications of State Historical Society of Iowa[edit | edit source]

  • Palimpsest back issues only
  • Iowa Heritage Illustrated (formerly Palimpsest)

About Us[edit | edit source]

The State Historical Society of Iowa has been a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy since 1857. With a dual mission of preservation and education, it maintains a museum, archives & historical libraries, preservation office, and eight historic sites. These bureaus preserve and provide access to Iowa’s historical resources through a variety of statewide programs, exhibitions and projects while serving as an advocate for Iowa’s past and connector to the future.

Further reading at Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs or Phone: (515) 281-6200 Des Moines, (319) 335-3916 Iowa City.