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Chronicling the caucuses

Caucus Buttons

Every day is like Christmas for Hope Grebner.

Well, a sort-of caucus and campaign Christmas.

Each morning the Drake University Political Papers Archivists arrives in Cowles Library to find, at least these past few months, one or more unopened packages holding as-yet-unknown treasures.

They’re contributions to the Iowa Caucus Collection, the nation’s only repository for the collection, preservation, and cataloging of historical artifacts associated with the caucuses.

Grebner and her colleagues at the Drake University Archives put out a statewide call this summer for memorabilia to help build out the collection. They’ve received paperwork and photographs, signage, buttons, books, neckties, door-hangers, stickers and other items that chronicle Iowa’s unique place in presidential politics.

“The Iowa Caucuses have a history and culture that is distinct from any other democratic exercise in the United States,” Grebner says. “Since 1972, candidates have made exceptional efforts to attract Iowa’s voters. Almost every serious candidate runs in Iowa, and some candidates run only in Iowa. The Iowa Caucus Collection serves as a vital record of the special role Iowans have played in national politics and the selection of this country’s president.”

Drake University and The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement created the Iowa Caucus Collection in summer 2014, but the collection has more than doubled in size since June. Candidates and campaign commercials are already ubiquitous in Iowa, creating an ideal climate for archival outreach. Archivists are contacting a breadth of organizations—from historical societies, to political organizations, to antique shops and libraries. They also need assistance from individual donors who have personal or familial ties to the caucuses.

The collection is publicly accessible to researchers, scholars, historians, school groups, and community groups, alongside the historical documents of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, and other prominent figures in Iowa and U.S. history.

Anyone who would like to contribute Iowa caucus memorabilia is invited to contact Hope Grebner at 515-271-2088 or hope.grebner@drake.edu.