Since Freeport Art Museum opened in 1975, its collection has ballooned to include nearly 4,000 pieces. The number is apt, since the artifacts – from Hellenistic gold jewelry to 19th-century Italian marble statues – encompass 4,000 years of work from all continents and time periods. The nonprofit museum reserves its remaining gallery space for work by contemporary regional artists, as well as travelling exhibitions.
Said space once belonged to a historic elementary school, a lineage that befits the museum's mission to inform visitors about art's global history and future. Through its educational programs, Freeport continues fulfilling that mission with events such as artists talks and classes on subjects such as graffiti art.
Retrace and retread tractor history at this Dyersville museum, located 90 minutes from downtown Cedar Rapids. With thousands of toys and exhibits scattered throughout its two-floored exhibition space, the National Farm Toy Museum pays tribute to historic and contemporary crop contraptions. Fun-loving farm enthusiasts may peruse the museum's frenzy of farm implements, including trucks, pedal tractors, and life-size John Deer soil-sifters. Original artwork, dioramas, and two Doug Schlesier sculptures artfully express anecdotes of American agriculture, while miniature farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey while miniature-sized farm replicas and Ertl Company toys convey to visitors the life-sized growth of American farming. The National Farm Toy Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
The Mississippi River meanders its way through the midwestern United States, fed by dozens of tributaries on its 2,500-mile sojourn from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium pays tribute to this mighty waterway with an array of immersive exhibits.
Six large aquariums house river creatures from all over the world—giant catfish, turtles, and sturgeons—as well as saltwater inhabitants such as sharks, rays, and the retired cast of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. A touch tank invites little ones to handle snails, freshwater mussels, and crawfish. The Woodward Wetland gives vistiors a boardwalked path through a natural river ecosystem. Equally sensory is the 3D or 4D theater, which screens popular kids' flicks and documentaries. Other interactive exhibits allow visitors to pilot a barge, learn about floods, and walk along a 92-foot map of the river.
Not all the museum's stars have fins, however. The National Rivers Hall of Fame honors the famous Americans who lived or worked along the Mississippi, such as Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. The Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum similarly offers a closer look at the historic schooners that once traversed the waterway.
The Rockford Art Museum has more than a century of creativity hanging from the walls in its galleries. It acquired its first piece in 1913 and has since collected more than 1600 pieces from local and international artists. Glass sculptures, 20th century American photography, and impressionist paintings vie for attention alongside the dynamic images of the American southwest from the Taos Society of New Mexico. The collection houses the detailed work of regional artists trained at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Royal Academy of Arts and the earthy, meaningful paintings of outsider art, such as Richard Burnside’s untitled painting of a cat made from paint and pinecone pieces.
Standing apart from the main collection, the museum’s RAM Art Annex houses educational programs and the museum store stocks an inventory of jewelry and glass pieces by local artists. The annual Greenwich Village Art Fair also shares art appreciation with the community. The fair gathers more than 100 artists in an atmosphere filled with live music.
Established in 1968, Midway Village Museum embodies a sprawling, 137-acre time capsule. Within the museum’s 27 fully functioning, Victorian buildings, exhibits tell the story of Rockford since its incorporation in the early 19th century. Throughout the years, the town has made history as the progenitor of the sock monkey, the launching point for aviator Bert Hassell, and home of the Rockford Peaches—an all-female baseball team fictionalized in the film A League of Their Own, though the real squad neither played in the 1943 championship nor battled a CGI dragon. Other attractions amid the barns, blacksmiths, and general stores include a dollhouse museum and a meticulous archive of Rockford’s long, proud history in the furniture industry.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum is a Victorian-era time capsule, containing within its Swiss-style architecture more than 10,000 objects representing the furniture, artwork, and clothing of the Tinker family. Between the main estate, the barn, the carriage house, and 27 acres of rolling gardens, the museum possesses enough history to attract locals, tourists, and even the producers of Syfy's Ghost Hunters, who recently filmed a segment at the house. Daily guided tours sweep through the grounds, which include a pre-Columbian Native American conical mound, as well as the site where Rockford was founded 4,000 years ago.