Ames Historical Society's main activities are to:
Preserve Ames history - The Society collects archival material and artifacts to document city government, schools, businesses, organizations, residents, transportation and events and celebrations throughout Ames history.
Provide reference service - Questions come to us daily by email, correspondence, phone and walk-in traffic. Historical resources transferred to us from the Ames Public Library over the past few years now allow us to answer most incoming inquiries. The massive photo archive of the Ames Tribune coupled with our own extensive photo collection allow us to supply images to individuals, businesses and media organizations. Besides photos, our collections of maps, directories, school yearbooks, newspapers, building plans, Multiple Listing Service and WWII Story County veterans’ service records enable us to serve hundreds of visitors and clients annually.
Maintain a website - The “virtual” concept for sharing our collections is well illustrated by our website containing over 7,000 pages of content available 24/7/365 to anyone with connectivity. The site averages over one gigabyte of traffic daily, generating requests for further information and donations as well.
Operate a one-room school museum - Hoggatt School was the first schoolhouse in the vicinity. It was built in 1861-1862 to serve residents before the city of Ames was established. The acquisition, move and restoration of this school were the driving forces in the founding of the society. In 1981, the log-frame building was moved to its present location on the grounds of Meeker School. Furnishings, fixtures, textbooks and other artifacts reflect the period of the 1860s. The school is open to the public on Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. during the summer, June 1st to August 31st, and is available for pre-arranged visits from April 1st to October 31st. Visitors can sit at desks, write on slates, view a typical day’s schedule or read a McGuffey’s reader to gain a feeling for nineteenth-century education.
Publish a quarterly newsletter for members - A typical issue contains news of past and future activities, readers’ mail and recollections, collection additions, website enhancements and special articles (sometimes written by members or guest authors).
Provide photos to the Ames Tribune - The weekly “From the Archives” photo series has been running since 2006. Residents and non-residents alike express appreciation for these popular reminders of Ames life in days past. All images and related supplementary material are archived on our website.
Loan exhibits - At various times staff members have created a variety of exhibits that can be loaned at no charge to Ames organizations. Exhibits consist of photographs, copies of original documents, and text mounted on art-board panels. Topics include: Ames Names, Main Street Stories, Carr’s Pool, The Railroad in Ames, Billy Sunday, and many others.
Present programs - Local organizations may request programs on a number of specific topics. Presentations frequently combine PowerPoint images with objects. A monthly winter lecture series is open to the general public from January through April. Topics have included: All the Smoke and Cinders You’ll Ever Want: Ames & College Railway’s “Dinkey,” Historical Whatchamacallits & Thingamajigs, The McFarland Clinic Story, The Carr Family and Carr’s Pool, and Who Killed Henry Chavis? A presentation specialty has evolved in our customized PowerPoint shows given as banquet programs for Ames High School class reunions. Images from our collections are combined with scanned, class-supplied photos to prompt nostalgic recollections and audience interaction. In 2011, 50 presentations were attended by over 1900 people.
Give tours - An historic walk through downtown Ames is conducted on demand throughout the year except during the winter season. Iconic personages, former businesses and historic buildings are emphasized. Multi-page brochures are available for self-guided historical tours of either the downtown business district or the Old Town housing district.
Educate youth - Primary school children cannot always make field trips to our headquarters, so staff takes selected objects and archival material to the classrooms. This effort complements the Ames School District third grade unit on local history. Cub Scout dens delight in the hands-on experience given onsite by our youth specialist. By engaging this age group with activities that are both fun and educational, a new generation is cultivated that values the contributions of the past and views local history as important. Middle school, high school and college students also make use of our resources for special projects, such as National History Day projects.
Cooperate with other cultural organizations - The society maintains a close working relationship with its companion organizations in the Main Street Cultural District: the Ames Public Library (APL) and The Octagon Center for the Arts. Special programs are co-sponsored annually with the Library and on-going consultation occurs regarding collection development and reference questions. Interaction with the Octagon staff centers on exhibits, preservation and storage issues. Other organizations outside the District also benefit from our collections. Iowa State University’s Brunnier Art Museum has received loans of artwork for exhibit and Des Moines University Library has an indefinite loan of medical equipment used by an Ames osteopath. The State Historical Society of Iowa and the African-American Museum of Iowa recently displayed images provided by us for their exhibits.
Sell publications and gift items - The museum shop focuses on titles illuminating Ames history. In-print items include all of Farwell Brown’s books and two different walking tour brochures: History Walk Through Downtown Ames and Old Town Historic District. Out-of-print titles are also available such as: Ames Centennial History (1964). Popular gift items are postcards of historic Ames images, slate boards and pencils, “clickers,” and Dinkey T-shirts.