The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa Foundation News Release

Dec. 8, 2004

Campaign Launched To Give Old Capitol Museum New Life

Even before the 2001 fire that destroyed its gold dome and damaged much of its interior, the Old Capitol building in Iowa City was showing signs of wear from the many roles it has played in the history of Iowa and in the lives of the state's citizens. 

To renew the functionality and relevance of the 150-year-old Iowa landmark for future generations, the University of Iowa and the UI Foundation have launched a fund-raising campaign to benefit what many consider to be the state's most cherished symbol and, for UI alumni, the heart and soul of their alma mater.

The goal of the Old Capitol Museum Campaign is to secure at least $2 million in private gifts, half of which will create a programmatic endowment with the other half used to transform Old Capitol's ground floor into an engaging education center celebrating Iowa's past, present and future.

Leading the statewide effort, which is part of the University's $1 billion "Good. Better. Best. Iowa" campaign, are UI President Emeritus Willard "Sandy" Boyd of Iowa City and 1951 UI graduate Mary Louise Petersen of Harlan, Iowa.  Boyd and Petersen head a committee of alumni and friends who share a love of Old Capitol and a belief in its potential to educate future generations. The committee held its first meeting Oct. 14 in Iowa City.

"In these times of dramatic change, it's imperative that we instill in our children an understanding of their responsibilities as citizens of their state, nation and world," Boyd said. "The Old Capitol Museum can make those lessons come alive, if enough alumni and friends believe in our vision of what Old Capitol can become."

Petersen and her husband, H. Rand Petersen, have made a $500,000 gift commitment toward the endowment portion of the campaign. In addition to sustaining the Old Capitol Museum, the Petersens also committed $500,000 to support programs in the UI Museum of Natural History, the operation of which is being coordinated with that of the Old Capitol Museum.

The campaign's vision builds upon UI-funded restoration work that was under way at the time of the November 2001 fire. Insurance has paid for fire-related damage, and the structural restoration work begun in the 1990s continues. What remains, said Boyd, is to fulfill Old Capitol's potential as a museum and educational resource dedicated to Iowa history, government, culture and civic life.

Among the changes that visitors will see when the museum reopens are two new spaces on the building's ground floor. The "University Gallery" will house changing, UI-focused historical, scientific and cultural exhibits. The "Discovery Center," a hands-on gallery space, will invite students and families to explore Iowa's history and future. 

In addition, Boyd said, other areas will be appropriately restored and updated to allow for more frequent use by visitors.  For example, audiovisual equipment will be installed in the Senate Chamber, which will serve as an orientation and presentation space for school groups touring the Old Capitol Museum and the nearby UI Museum of Natural History.

Both Boyd and Petersen were involved in 1970s campaign to restore Old Capitol's interior to its days as Iowa's seat of government. That restoration was completed in time for the nation's bicentennial in 1976. 

"So much has happened since that time," Petersen said, "but Old Capitol still stands as a reminder of our history and a beacon for our future. We have a responsibility to assure that the next generation of students and leaders can benefit from the lessons Old Capitol can teach us."

For more information about the Old Capitol Museum Campaign, contact Olga Sassine or Susan Sweeney at the UI Foundation, 800-648-6973, or visit the web site at

The UI's "Good. Better. Best. Iowa" campaign is being conducted under the guidance of the UI Foundation. The seven-year effort (beginning of 1999 through end of 2005) is raising private funds to help launch a variety of initiatives across the university, substantially increase the number of UI scholarships and endowed faculty positions, support new educational and research facilities, build the UI's endowment and fund outreach and service programs to benefit Iowans.

The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private gifts that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the "Good. Better. Best. Iowa" campaign, visit its web site at

STORY SOURCE: UI Foundation, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, Iowa 52244-4550

CONTACTS: Media: Steve Sanders, VP for Development Programs, UI Foundation, 319-335-3305, e-mail:; Writer: Forrest Meyer

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: Photos for this story are available for downloading at: