The Iowa Files, an educational history lecture series, returns for its fifth year in 2023/2024. This joint WDMHS-WDM Public Library program is free and open to the public, thanks to the generosity of West Des Moines Historical Society members, the Iowa Arts Council and the Friends Foundation of the West Des Moines Library.  The Iowa Files is an 8 month series showcasing interesting people and events in Iowa history.

Each program begins at 2:30 and runs for one hour in the Community Room of the West Des Moines Public Library, 4000 Mills Civic Parkway. All programs are livestreamed on the WDMHS Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Sunday, September 24: Hysterical Legislation: The Early Years of Women’s Suffrage in Iowa

In 1870, the Iowa Legislature passed a resolution that would have made it legal for women to vote after a second approval in 1872. In the intervening time, conflicts in the women’s movement caused upheaval and the second approval never came. What were these issues and just how progressive were Iowa suffragists? Join Kate Levasseur to learn about Iowa’s women suffragist leaders and their role both at home and on the national stage.

To watch a captioned recording of Hysterical Legislation, please click here.

Sunday, October 15: Camp Dodge; Always Ready

During 1917-1918, Camp Dodge Iowa became the largest military base in Iowa’s history. Gold Star Museum Curator Mike Vogt will share an illustrated presentation exploring the training activities conducted in support of the US Army’s victory in World War I.

To watch a captioned recording of Camp Dodge, please click here.

Sunday, November 19: Unconditional Surrender; A Visit with Ulysses S. Grant

Mr. Grant reviews his life—an informative, humorous and touching portrayal of the victorious General whose strategy and tenacity won the Civil War, the President who struggled to rebuild his nation after the war and the husband and father whose final efforts were devoted to the financial support of his wife and family. Pete Grady presents this one-man show about the life and times of the Civil War General and 18th President of the United States.

A captioned recording of Unconditional Surrender can be seen here.

Sunday, January 21, 2024: Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny is the 19th-centurybelief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable. This lead to exploration, colonization and a rapidly changing country. Educator Kent Halstead will share 19th century images exploring this concept, and discuss events such as the doomed Donnor party that were part of this movement west.

A captioned recording of Manifest Destiny can be seen here.


Sunday, February 18: The Rise & Fall of Center Street

Center Street was a vibrant Black neighborhood of Des Moines from 1900-1970, boasting thriving businesses and entertainment options. But this neighborhood was destroyed when the decision was made to build I-235 through downtown. Leo Landis, State Curator, State Historical Society of Iowa shares pictures, documents and stories about the repercussions of this all too common occurrence.

A captioned recording of The Rise & Fall of Center Street can be seen here.

Sunday, March 17: Lewis & Clark in Iowa

“Lewis and Clark in Iowa” begins with the story before the expedition: the sale of the Louisiana Purchase to the United States. Tracing the 1803 course from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania to St. Charles, Missouri, Donald Shurr discusses the background of the many “players” of the expedition including York, the engages and Seaman. Moving up the Missouri River focus shifts to events occurring in Iowa such as the death of Sgt. Floyd. The audience will be exposed to the many “firsts” that occurred in Iowa, the true peril of this journey and the return of Lewis and Clark to civilization at the journey’s end.

A captioned recording of “Lewis & Clark in Iowa” can be watched here.

Sunday, April 21: Celina Biniaz; Saved by Schindler’s List

Celina Karp Biniaz, one of the last living survivors from Schindler’s List—and the only one who graduated from North High School and Grinnell College in Iowa.

Sandi Yoder, Director of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society, will share Celina’s personal story, which included nearly five years in the Krakow ghetto and the Plaszow labor camp, the transfer to Auschwitz, and her terrifying encounter with Dr. Josef Mengele before she, her mother, and the other women on Schindler’s list were rescued by Schindler and were reunited with her father at Schindler’s factory. In October 2023, IJHS published Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz, a remarkable biography by well-known Iowa historian William Friedricks.

The captioned recording of this program can be viewed here.

Sunday, May 19: Nothing Compares!

The Iowa State Fair is one of the oldest & largest agricultural expositions in the country! It began in 1854 and has been held on the Iowa State Fairgrounds since 1886. ISF CEO Jeremy Parsons will share stories and photos of this celebration of all things Iowa!
The captioned recording of this program can be viewed here.