The Dubuque County Historical Society (DCHS) has been awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museum for America grant award for $149,000 in support of a stakeholder-engaged interpretive planning initiative that will produce a new master interpretive plan including recommendations for interpretive practices and comprehensive signage and create a more cohesive storyline to better join its properties: the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium’s 14-acre campus and the 2-acre Mathias Ham Historic Site. This multi-year project will run from Sept. 2023 through Aug. 2025 with many opportunities for staff and community to engage in focus groups.

This competitive grants program received 281 applications requesting $53,897,281. Of these, DCHS was among the 122 projects to receive funding totaling $24,293,190.

"As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities."

The grant will help support a $297,912 initiative to conduct a two-year stakeholder-engaged interpretive planning process that will result in the development of a new master interpretive plan. Through collaborative activities between staff, board of directors, volunteers, visitors, community members, stakeholders, and an interpretive planning firm, the River Museum will produce a new master interpretive plan including recommendations for interpretive practices and comprehensive signage. As a result, the River Museum will gain an increased understanding of visitor knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes, reflect community need and connectivity, inform evaluation practices to best serve community, creatively integrate the goals of both historic and living collections in exhibits and programs, and create a more cohesive storyline between its properties.

“Over the last several years, we have made a lot of improvements to our exhibits and campus, so updating our interpretive plan is the next step,” said Jennifer Drayna, Director of Education at the River Museum. “We are excited to update the stories we share and build connections between our properties while continuing to provide great visitor and educational experiences.”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America's museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Over the last 43 years, DCHS and the River Museum has experienced significant growth from humble beginnings as a 9,000 sq. ft. riverboat museum to a 14-acre Smithsonian affiliate accredited by both the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The River Museum’s collections contain more than 41,000 historical items and over 2,000 animals of more than 250 species representative of the Mississippi River, its watershed, the rivers of America, and beyond. The Mathias Ham Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic property includes the Mathias Ham House, Iowa’s oldest log cabin, the Humke Schoolhouse, a replica lead mine and miner’s dwelling, and a historic granary.

For more information about DCHS and its properties, visit