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  • Writer's pictureAbby Fowler

Memorializing History through Education and Museums: A Project for Ukraine

On the steps of the Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City, joined by Stanely Director Lauren Lessing and Pentacrest Museum Director Liz Crooks.


This March, we hosted a delegation from Ukraine for a program titled “Memorializing History through Education and Museums.” This was our first delegation of the new year, and we were incredibly pleased to see that almost all of the volunteer opportunities filled up within minutes after they were sent out. Thank you to our amazing community for offering your time to help us greet, guide, and host this delegation!

This 10-person delegation arrived in eastern Iowa the evening of Sunday, March 5th, and were greeted at the airport by Jeanne Stoakes, Steven McGrath, John Achrazoglou, Executive Director Amy Alice Chastain, and Maria Ôunap.

Meeting with LaNisha Cassell, Executive Director the African American Museum of Iowa.

The next morning, volunteer Steve Merkel-Hess joined them for their meeting with LaNisha Cassell, Executive Director of the African American Museum of Iowa. Although the museum is currently closed to renovations, they were still able to meet to discuss the role of museums in curating local interest in African American history and culture, their exhibits on systemic oppression and redlining, and their fundraising strategies.

After a catered lunch, the delegation hopped on a bus to Meskwaki, Iowa. There, they met volunteers Jane McMullen and Aimee Williams at the Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum. They had some time to explore and glimpse into the rich cultural legacy of Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi River before joining Historical Preservation Director Jonathan Buffalo and Textile Curator Mary YoungBear for a discussion about the museum.


Group selfie at Ashley and Matt Laux's Iowa Table DInner.

The delegation returned to Iowa City and had a bit of free time before their Iowa Table Dinners. Don and Suzanne Kirchner and Ashley and Matt Laux each hosted three visitors in their home for dinner and hospitality.

“We had a meaningful dinner with rich conversation and could have continued talking for many more hours,” said Ashley Laux. " I especially appreciated the opportunity to talk about the war with my daughters and to think together about the roles we all play as global neighbors.”


"My guest visit to Don and Suzanne's [home] was very warm and welcoming. We had a good time," said IVLP participant Nataliia Dziubenko.

The next morning, the delegation traveled to Cedar Rapids and met volunteers Jeanne Stoakes and Amy Alice Chastain at the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library. Visitors met museum staff, including President and CEO Cecilia Roukusek, Library Director David Muhlena, and Life-long Learning Specialist Melina Testin to learn about the museum’s educational opportunities, new exhibitions, and fundraising strategies.

After this meeting, they traveled to Coralville to the Iowa City Children’s Museum. Volunteer Ellen Osinska accompanied them on this meeting with Executive Director Jeff Capps and Assistant Director Aimee Mussman to learn how the museum develops children-friendly exhibits and manages a child focused museum. Afterward, the delegation had some free time to eat and shop at the Coral Ridge Mall.

Touring collections at the Pentacrest Museums Museum of Natural History.

For their last meeting of the day, the delegation visited the University of Iowa’s museums. Programming Coordinator Bailey Shafer met the visitors at the Stanley Museum of Art, where Director Lauren Lessing gave them a short tour of the exhibits and facilities. Then, Pentacrest Museums Director Liz Crooks guided them through the highlights of the Old Capitol Museum and the University of Iowa Natural History Museum, including the museum’s collections. The meeting finished with an engaging discussion with both directors.

Afterwards, the four visitors who hadn’t attended an Iowa Table Dinner the day prior attended a dinner hosted by Lee Mickey.

After a busy few days in Iowa, the delegation left the morning of Wednesday, March 8th, bound for Chicago. Amy Alice Chastain and Bailey Shafer saw them off at the hotel.

Thank you to the African American Museum of Iowa, Meskwaki Cultural Center and Museum, National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Iowa City Children’s Museum, Stanley Museum of Art, and the Pentacrest Museums for serving as our professional resources in this program! We could not connect the world and the heartland without you all taking the time out of your day to share your knowledge, expertise, and museum spaces.


"All planned meetings [that] took place were interesting and useful within the framework of the program topic," said Nataliia.


Executive Director Amy Alice Chastain seeing the visitors off at the hotel.

Thank you also to our volunteers Jeanne Stoakes, Steven McGrath, John Achrazoglou, Steve Merkel-Hess, Jane McMullen, Aimee Williams, Amy Alice Chastain, Maria Ôunap, Don and Suzanne Kirchner, Ashley and Matt Laux, Ellen Osinska, Bailey Shafer, and Lee Mickey for your eagerness to make this delegation’s time in Iowa special! We could not pursue our mission for a more peaceful world without you.


"I am very grateful to the volunteers for their work. It was touching and they were very helpful," said Nataliia.


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