March 15th, 2016 by

The Museum “Type”

By LaNisha Cassell

As a newbie to the world of museum work and tasked with writing my first blog, I’ve decided to be introspective about my perception of museums – actually, arts and culture, in general. Growing up in the Washington, DC metro area; the land of arts and culture, one would think my over-exposure to this scene would make me a perfect fit, right? Sure, I visited the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum, The Newseum, The Octagon House, the National Children’s Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and so many more of the unique institutions that make DC a destination location for so many tourists. But, I’m not sure I appreciated what was in my own backyard in real time. Like many of those around me, I tended to take those “everyday” occurrences for granted. “Didn’t everyone visit these places for their school field trips, or take lunch breaks passing the White House?”

Octagon House

The Octagon Museum in Washington, DC

Was I alone in this kind of thinking? Not just for us living in DC, but in other places across the nation and in the world? When I moved to Iowa almost 12 years ago, I was impressed with Iowa’s rich heritage. There were historical events and people I’d heard about, but never connected to Iowa until I was actually living here. When did you learn that the Underground Railroad was part of Iowa’s history? Or, that Iowan’s participated in historic sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement (Dr. King even came through – more than once). I discovered people like Hiram Revels, the Sullivan Brothers, Dr. Percy Harris, Grant Wood, Viola Gibson, John Wayne, the Wright Brothers, Jack Trice, African American contributions to Iowa’s agricultural industry and our nation’s military, and so much more; were all part of Iowa’s landscape.



The Sullivan Brothers

Jack Trice

Jack Trice (second from left)

I guarantee, if there’s something or some group you are interested in, there’s probably a museum, studio, library, historically designated site or institute just for you (and possibly several). The challenge is to be intentional about discovering what piques your interest and what’s in your own backyard; and seeking out opportunities anywhere you live or visit. I don’t have to go to Washington, DC to find arts and culture. Right here in the Cedar Rapids’ Cultural Corridor, there are dozens. In addition to the African American Museum of Iowa, you have your pick; no matter your “type.” Check them out on Now that I’m being immersed into the world of arts, culture and history (Iowa’s and otherwise), I am realizing that there really isn’t a museum “type.” Rather, there are so many types of places to explore and learn what makes you happy.