What Is German Iowa & the Global Midwest?


“German Iowa and the Global Midwest” is a public humanities project based at the University of Iowa. It explores Iowa’s multicultural history through the largest group of European origin to settle in the state.

Around 1900, app. 12% of all Iowans spoke German as their first or second language. Today, Iowa is home to nationally known German heritage groups, such as the American/Schleswig-Holstein Heritage Society (Walcott), the Ostfriesen Heritage Society (Grundy Center), and of course the Amana Heritage Society. And yet the larger contours of German immigration to the state–its unique features in the history and dynamics of global migration–are not well known. Our project, through outreach, engagement, and comparative research, seeks to educate the general public on Iowa’s immigrant past and provide perspective on present-day issues, including:

  • Pro- and anti-immigration sentiment
  • The value and challenges of bilingualism
  • The hurdles and rewards of multiculturalism
  • Questions of belonging and exclusion in times of international and domestic conflict

In 2017, the 12 banners of our touring exhibit traveled to over 30 communities in the state. We are grateful to our hosts for their support of the project and the local event programing that often accompanied the exhibit. The schedule for the traveling exhibit provides an overview of host communities and organizations.

We wish to thank colleagues and visitors for their participation in the primary project events of 2016: