When folks first enter the Iowa Rural Schools Museum of Odebolt, the often-spoken first words are “Oh, wow!” I think visitors are expecting to see something that we do have-– an example of a country school classroom. What they don’t expect is all of the items, artifacts, and exhibits that our “rural school” also has. It sounds like our 25’ by 25’ classroom and 8’ by 8’ entry room should be jammed-packed when we mention that we have over 1,000 textbooks, teachers’ resource books, and documents and at least 1,000 items and artifacts that represent rural schools during the time period between 1883 and 1951, when this particular building was teaching youngsters. But these displays have been organized and categorized artfully by our talented curator, Sandra Kessler Host. In this manner, the collections tell the story of Iowa’s one-room schools and how they played a vital role in the settlement of Iowa and development of a well renowned educational system for many years.
There are several things that are unique to Odebolt’s Rural Schools Museum. Firstly, we know and have documents that tell the entire story of the life of this building, from its construction through the years to the present day. Secondly, it is a prime example of a building constructed in the Victorian style. From its fish scaled gable to the fleur-de-lis designs on the roofing trim to the mounting board that supported the original gingerbread decorative work, this building has all the earmarks. Not to mention, the timeframe in which it was built by a renowned German builder turned farmer, Mr. Fred Petersmeyer. Thirdly, we have a collection that tells the story of the development of the western two-thirds of Iowa by agriculture and the educational system designed to support those new farmers and their families coming to settle in these prairie lands.
We have been blessed with gifts that depict all of these aspects of early Iowa life and education, and a good many of them have been used in this very building at one time. We also enjoy sharing with folks the beauty of our landscaping that is home to two bronze pieces of sculpture that depict children outside of their school building. One is called “Time for School” and another called “Recess”. There is a delightful seating area, play area, teaching area that we call our Outdoor Classroom as well as a collection of school bells.
So, before you say to yourself “Well, it’s just another country schoolhouse”, come let us show you how surprised you'll be by what you see and learn from the Iowa Rural Schools Museum of Odebolt.
Open from Memorial Day through October, Wednesdays 10:00 - 4:00, Saturdays and Sundays 2:00 – 4:00, or by appointment. Visit us online!