Behind the Scenes in Cedar Rapids

Take a look behind the scenes at major attractions in the Cedar Rapids area during National Tourism Week, May 3-11, 2014! Be prepared – this isn’t your typical school field trip visit!

Iowa Masonic LibraryCase in point, the Iowa Masonic Library in Cedar Rapids. This majestic white marble building with lion statues sits on one of the busiest streets in the city, with thousands passing each day, not knowing what is inside. I was recently invited for a guided tour, including a stop in the rare book vault. Oh, the treasures inside! They included a book that Benjamin Franklin personally printed, rare bibles from centuries past, a lock of George Washington’s hair, and so many fascinating items. As the tour continued the variety of the Library’s collection was amazing, there were items from around the world with fascinating stories about how they arrived in Cedar Rapids.

This triggered the idea – what if everyone was invited to get a behind the scenes look at museums and attractions? Who wouldn’t like to hear stories that aren’t well known, to gain a different perspective? What rare treasures do our museums house that are rarely seen?

To celebrate National Tourism Week, we invite you to come see Behind the Scenes in Cedar Rapids from May 6-10! Tour backstage at two historic theaters, see how museums store rare artifacts and artworks, see the Grant Wood stained glass window in the newly renovated Veterans Memorial Building, visit the Tahitian Room at Brucemore, get a glimpse of eco-friendly practices underway today and discover what others rarely have the chance to experience!

Need more motivation? We’re even giving away a weekend prize package – find details here:

We hope you can join us at the following museums and attractions!

Jennifer Pickar
Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Paramount TheatreParamount Theatre

Public Tours

Tuesday, May 6 from 5-7 p.m.

If you have yet to see the majestic Paramount Theatre since its complete renovation and reopening in 2012 or want a guided tour to see behind the scenes you’re invited to this free public tour!

Theatre Cedar RapidsTheatre Cedar Rapids

Public Tour

Tuesday, May 6 at 2 p.m.


Take a guided tour of the historic Iowa Theater Building with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ executive director, Casey Prince. Literally see behind the scenes and learn how they make the magic of live theater happen. Take a look at the beautifully restored theater and hear a bit about the building’s long history.

Cedar Rapids Museum of ArtCedar Rapids Museum of Art

Art Bites: Behind the Scenes

Wednesday, May 7, at 12:15 p.m.


The Museum’s registrar, Jacqueline Falco-Smith, will host a discussion of the behind-the-scenes practices used to store and preserve a collection that exceeds over 7,000 works. This is a unique opportunity to see pictures of what the storage area looks like, including unique ways that allow rare paintings and drawings to be housed in total darkness when they are not on display; yet allows the curatorial team to know exactly where every piece in the collection is in a moment.


Nooks & Crannies Tour

Thursday, May 8 at 6 p.m.

Visit every floor, peek into closed rooms, and satisfy curiosity through this all-access pass to the Brucemore mansion. Marvel at the Skinner pipe organ room, discover the architecture and oddities in the attic, and experience the sight and sound of a “rain storm” in the basement Tahitian Room. Examine the superior craftsmanship and learn about ongoing preservation work. Admission is $15 per person and $12 per Brucemore member. Space is limited; purchase tickets online at or by calling (319) 362-7375.

African American Museum of IowaAfrican American Museum of Iowa

The Sneak Peek

Thursday, May 8 at 11:30 a.m.


Have you ever wondered what was hidden inside the African American Museum of Iowa? See the back rooms usually used only by staff, including the museum’s collections space, home to thousands of artifacts that tell Iowa history. Curator Brianna Wright and Director of Education Michelle Poe will share artifacts too fragile to ever go on display and show you a little bit about how the museum magic happens. This is a rare opportunity for the general public to take a sneak peek behind the scenes.

National Czech and Slovak MuseumNational Czech & Slovak Museum & Library

Staff Only Beyond This Point

Thursday, May 8 at 1 p.m. 

Cost: This specific event is free to the public. Admission must be purchased to see exhibits and films and is $12 adults, $11 seniors, $7 students, $5 youth. Free for NCSML members.

Join NCSML library and curatorial staff as they discuss rare and obscure items from the library and artifact collections, followed by an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the NCSML’s library and archives.


Behind-the-Scenes Eco-Tour

Saturday, May 10 from 10–11:30 a.m.

Do you want to learn about alternative energy, earth-friendly building materials and other eco-friendly alternatives for your home, office or yard? Tour a number of “eco-features” at Prairiewoods (120 East Boyson Road in Hiawatha), including a trombe wall, straw-bale cabins, solar-heated hoop house, photovoltaic solar panels, solar thermal systems, native habitat restoration, retention ponds and much more. In this behind-the-scenes tour, you’ll also get a sneak peek at a natural root cellar, explore inside an off-the-grid solar-powered cabin and learn a variety of green practices you can use at home. See how these features helped us attain LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification for existing buildings from the Green Building Association. This tour, led by Emy Sautter, is offered as part of National Tourism Week (May 3–11) through the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. A free-will offering will be accepted. For more information or to register, contact Prairiewoods at or 319-395-6700.

Iowa Masonic LibraryIowa Masonic Library

From the Vault

Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.


The Iowa Masonic Library and Museum will showcase some  treasures from their vaults, including their Lincoln letter, lock of George Washington’s hair, an original Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s daybook/account ledger from his store in Nauvoo, IL (1842-44), first Masonic book published in America (published by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia), and other items.

CaptureThe Carl and Mary Koehler History Center

Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Recommended Donation of $5 per adult, $3 per child

Take a look into the collections area of the History Center. We house over 50,000 objects, some that have yet to be shown to the public.  Tours will start every 15 minutes between 10am-1pm.  There is no cost for admission, but a free will donation is appreciated. Celebrate National Tourism week with this wonderful opportunity usually only available to staff and volunteers of the History Center. Staff and Volunteers including local historian, Mark Stoffer Hunter, will share with you the stories behind some of the treasures in the basement.

Indian CreekIndian Creek Nature Center

History Mystery at Indian Creek Nature Center

Saturday, May 10 at 1 p.m.

Suggested Donation:  $5/adult $3/child

What mysteries lie under your feet that you can’t see? Few people realize that the Indian Creek Nature Center’s property was once a Native American village site dating back 4,500 years. Join Education Facilitator Jan Aiels on a special guided tour of the property as she shares information about the former Native American village sites and middens, and evidence of early Euro American settlement of the land. Get a sneak peek at artifacts found from both cultures as the Nature Center restored land to native prairie and woodlands. The program will also include a tour of the Penningroth farm dairy barn, built in 1932, that currently houses the Nature Center.

Veterans Memorial BuildingVeterans Memorial Building

Saturday, May 10, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.


Behind the scenes and self-guided tour of Grant Wood’s Memorial Window and gallery display.

Join Executive Director Mike Jager and Teri Van Dorston, Assistant Director of the Veterans Memorial Commission for a behind the scenes tour of collection storage. Over 1,300 artifacts are stored in the Veterans Memorial Building. Van Dorston will discuss accession procedures and preservation methods. The newly renovated Veterans Memorial Building located at 50 2nd Avenue Bridge is a site to see. Visitors will be able to peruse the Coliseum, ballroom, armory and more. Questions? Please call 319-286-5038.



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