Congratulations to founder of the Iowa History Center, Simpson College professor, author of many books on Iowa history and all-around great local historian William Friedricks, who has won the inaugural Iowa History Prize from Humanities Iowa.  You may remember how exciting I found it when this prize, a sort of Historian Laureate for the state of Iowa, was announced back in the summer, and it sounds like they’ve chosen a great project and a great historian for this first prize.  

“I am eager to get our programming started,” Friedricks said. “At the Iowa History Center we intend to use the funding from the prize to jumpstart Iowa history.” 

Friedricks’ proposal includes everything from a free speaker series to grants to elementary schools to fund Iowa history field trips. He also has proposed an Iowa Oral History Project to record the stories of prominent Iowans and an Iowa History Center Press designed to publish works with an appeal to both an academic and a popular audience. 

Congrats to Friedricks, and to Humanities Iowa for conceiving and funding such a great prize.  I’m a big believer in contests and prizes as goads to innovation, and hopefully the Iowa History Prize will be a great success and a model for Historian Laureate programs across the country.  

However, a caveat:  the Iowa History Center at Simpson College, Friedricks’ organization, has no web presence at all.  Iowa Oral History Project?  Publishing program?  Sounds great, but you have to put it on the web so everyone can not only access but help create the information.  Public history needs to happen on the web as well as on the museum floor, the park, the classroom.  If it’s not accessible on the web, it’s not accessible to the public.  Keep that in mind, Iowa historians, and good luck to Bill!