Upcoming Exhibits - Octagon Center for the Arts

Upcoming Exhibits

Defining Ames: 150 Historic People, Places, and Events, 1864-2014

On display in the Main Gallery at the Octagon Center for the Arts, August 4 to October 25, this exhibit will highlight 150 people, places, and events that influenced Ames throughout the community’s history. It will feature historical photographs and never-before-seen artifacts from Ames Historical Society’s collection. Interactive activities will be available in the Sweeney Gallery, allowing visitors to experience Ames history hands-on.


Business Signs From Past Times

On display in the Community Gallery at the Octagon Center for the Arts from August 4 to September 27, this exhibit will highlight Ames businesses of the past. The exhibit will show off Ames Historical Society’s extensive collection of local business signs, along with historical photos and information about the businesses.




Ames Historical Society GALLERY TALKS at the Octagon Center for the Arts


Tuesday, August 26, 7:00 pm—“150 Years in 50 Minutes: An Overview of Ames History” presented by Margaret Vance, Ames Historical Society Research Assistant

As the trains were pushing westward across Iowa, the choices made by “advance man” John I. Blair spelled the beginning of new towns and the death knell to others. Learn how his decisions, along with the aid of a feisty pioneer woman, brought Ames into being. We will explore the lives of some of the Civil War veterans as well as others who chose to live here and became the movers and shakers who helped Ames grow and thrive. Learn also the fascinating stories behind many of the places and buildings that are part of our everyday lives today.


Thursday, September 4, 7:00 pm—“By the Side of the Road: How Transportation Shaped Ames” presented by Jeff Benson, Lincoln Highway Historian

The earliest businesses in Ames established themselves at the east end of Onondaga Street near the first railroad depot, which expanded into the “downtown” district over the next 50 years. With the switch to automobiles, business growth moved to the Lincoln Highway and later to Highway 69. Since 1913 all of the houses on the Lincoln Highway south of downtown were replaced with businesses, 77 of them by 1955. The speaker will explore this trend and some of these businesses as an illustration of how transportation influences urban design.


Thursday, September 18, 7:00 pm—“Culture Under Canvas: Chautauqua Comes to Ames by Train and Tent” presented by Dr. Charles Kniker, Emeritus Professor of Education, Iowa State University

Imagine you were an Ames resident from 1904 to 1926. What would you do for entertainment?  Radio and movies were in their infancy. One option was to attend something called “Chautauqua.” Performers and the large tent they used arrived by train. The site was near what is now Brookside Park. During the daytime, there were lectures for women and Sunday School-like classes and play times for children. A season ticket cost $1.50 and every night for a week there was something new. The entertainment in Ames ranged from a Shakespearean play to instrumental music by the Cleveland Ladies Orchestra or the Royal Hungarian Orchestra; from watching a demonstration of the wireless telegraph to shaking hands with a presidential candidate like William Jennings Bryan or lecturer Booker T. Washington. Dr. Kniker will highlight other events at Chautauqua in addition to displaying pictures and artifacts from that bygone adult movement, called by some as “the most American thing in America.”


Thursday, October 2, 7:00 pm—“The Ames Connection to WWII’s Manhattan Project” by Kathy Svec, daughter of a Project researcher

The desperate, top-secret race during World War II to master the military technology of nuclear fission before Nazi Germany played out in 32 sites across the U.S. and Canada. The story of how Ames became one of these sites will be told by the speaker, whose father, Harry J. Svec, was pulled into the research while a graduate student in Chemistry at Iowa State. The role that small group of scientists played was critical to the timing and success of the Project.


Thursday, October 16, 7:00 pm—“Ames Has Been Home to Many” by Sharon Wirth, Historic Old Town Neighborhood Association, and Peter D. Englin, Ph.D., Director of Residence at Iowa State University

Since Ames was platted in 1864, the development of housing has had a major impact on the Ames community. Explore where residential development began, early architecture, early builders, and early connections. The growth of the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm impacted the growth of housing for students and faculty. Learn how creating a home for many has produced longstanding connections between Iowa State University and the Ames community.


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