New exhibition highlights the early years of Iowa's state park system

May 10, 2017

The Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) department plans a new exhibition. "This movement for a more beautiful Iowa": The Early Years of Iowa's State Park System will open to the public on May 17 and remain available for viewing through 2017 on the 4th floor of Parks Library.

Iowa's landscape of native prairie, forests, and wetlands was rapidly disappearing by the early part of the 20th century due to an expanding population and growing agricultural operations. Individuals from across Iowa advocated for the legislature to set aside land to conserve Iowa's dwindling natural landscapes, which resulted in the passage of Iowa's state parks bill in 1917. The legislation was approved April 12, 1917, with $50,000 appropriated for the provisions of the act.

Iowa State played a central role in establishing the state park system and the state of Iowa soon became a leader in the effort to form a similar organization nationwide. The 2017 SCUA exhibition highlights Iowa State's role in the state park movement, and includes individuals such as botanists Louis Pammel and Ada Hayden, forester G. B. MacDonald, and landscape architect John Fitzsimmons.? Materials for the exhibit will be drawn from the Library's rare book and archival collections.

As a complement to the SCUA exhibition, Heidi H. Hohmann, associate professor of landscape architecture will give a presentation at 7 p.m. June 6 in the Farwell T. Brown Auditorium at the Ames Public Library, 515 Douglas Ave. Hohmann?s lecture will focus on the influence and role that ISU and the Department of Landscape Architecture played in the development of state parks in Iowa and national parks in the 1930s.

The park system in Iowa has grown exponentially in the 100 years since the bill was passed. There are over 70 state parks in Iowa and six within a 30-minute drive of Ames. Ledges State Park (Boone County) and Big Creek State Park (Polk County) are among them and popular for hiking, biking and recreation for Iowans and travelers from all over the United States. Plan a visit to a state park and stop by Parks Library to learn more about Iowa?s park system from the exhibition.


Laura Sullivan, collections archivist, 403 Parks Library, 515-294-9680

Rachel Seale, outreach archivist, 403 Parks Library, 515-294-5311

M. Monica Gillen, communications specialist, 302 Parks Library, 515-294-1442