Réseau d'Archives des francophonies nord-américaines
State Historical Society of Iowa – State Historical Library and Archives Bureau
600 East Locust Street Des Moines, Iowa 50319 (États-Unis)
By phone: (515) 281-6200
402 Iowa Avenue Iowa City, Iowa 52240 (États-Unis)
By phone: 319 335-3916
The origin of the current State Historical Society of Iowa dates from authorization by the legislature of the State of Iowa in 1857 of a budget for a society (the "State Historical Society of Iowa") responsible for the collection and preservation of documents relevant to the story of the young State created in 1846. Another government agency, the State Historical Department, formed in 1892, functioned concurrently with the State Historical Society of Iowa until their merger in 1974 that produced the new Historical Department of the government of Iowa. It was within this government agency that the State Archivist, charged with preserving permanent archives of the government of Iowa, performed official duties beginning in 1906. A government reorganization carried out in 1986 made the Historical Department into the Historical Division of the new Department of Cultural Affairs; the name "State Historical Society of Iowa" is still used to designate this government division in which is located the State Historical Library and Archives bureau.
General presentation of the collection
Documentary collection holdings of the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) have significant value for knowledge of the history of the State of Iowa and of the territory in which it is located. These holdings are divided among three categories:
- the archives of the government of the State of Iowa
- special collections, including archives and collections from non-government sources
- collection of historical library
The archives of the State government, measuring at least 40,000 cubic feet of records, are preserved at the seat of government in Des Moines, in the SHSI research center. The 4,000+ cubic feet of special collections and the library collection are divided between the two SHSI research centers in Des Moines and Iowa City.
A French presence in the present territory of Iowa, from the late 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century, is manifested in certain holdings of the three categories of documentary resources preserved by SHSI.
It is particularly at the level of information concerning individuals and recorded by the State government in the exercise of its official functions that the State government archives testify to this Franco-American presence in Iowa. The Canadian and European immigration in the late 19th century and the presence of descendants of French-speaking immigrants in the 20th century are evident in government archives. As an example, several series of relevant archives holdings testify to the multiple national origins of individuals and communities established in Iowa:
- censuses created by the State (separately from federal censuses) between 1885 and 1925
- archival series concerning the military organizations of Iowa and veterans, 1861-1950
- registers of detainees in the State's prisons from 1910 to 1970,
- death certificates since 1880
Among special collections are preserved several archival collections that derive from activities, or that contain indications, of individuals and French groups established in Iowa. Although the extent of collections relevant to Francophone history in Iowa among special collections holdings is limited, nevertheless these holdings reflect Francophone involvement in the early 19th century fur trade in the territory that would later become the State of Iowa, and also some groups and individuals who later arrived in Iowa as immigrants:
- George L. Davenport, 1819-1923
- Antoine LeClair court papers, 1836-1853
- Levi family papers, 1836-1926
- Icarian Community Collection 1848-1879
The SHSI library collection contains numerous secondary sources - books and journals - treating various aspects of the history of Iowa and of its geographic region. An important primary source containing contemporary information is that of newspapers (microform) published in the period from Iowa Territory (1838-1846) until the late 20th century. Another collection of microform copies of certain series of county government records in Iowa is also a resource for research on individuals and their communities. It should be remembered that in Iowa local government archives (including 99 counties) are kept in their official offices; this microform collection offers researchers the opportunity to jointly consult local and State records, favoring research on the geographic distribution of Francophone communities in the 19th century and also genealogical research concerning individuals.