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Historical Collections & Archives

Historical Collections

The historical collections of the Dubuque County Historical Society and National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium preserve and interpret the rich history of Dubuque, the Mississippi River, and the rivers of America. Our collections include a significant record of the people and culture of the Mississippi River Valley and Dubuque County, presenting a comprehensive look at Native American life, settlement, boat building, commerce, river art, music, literature, conservation, and more. The collections are unique and widely interdisciplinary.

The Captain William D. Bowell, Jr. River Library & Archives, housed at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, has thousands of items available for research. Among them are historic photographs, books, blueprints, original documents, and other reference materials. The collection also includes materials related to National Rivers Hall of Fame inductees and important river people.

 

Research & Archives

The archives and library are open by appointment only. You are encouraged to call 563-557-9545 to schedule an appointment. A selection of the Dubuque County Historical Society's collections are available online.

Visit the Online Collection

For specific inquiries, please complete the following form for our staff to better assist you in your research.

Research Request Form

For archival information, please call 563-557-9545 x308. For artifact information, please call 563-557-9545 x310.

Donating to our Collection

Collections Donation Form

The Dubuque County Historical Society relies on the generosity of donors to expand and refine its collections in line with its mission to inspire stewardship by creating educational experiences where history and rivers come alive and in line with its vision to become the world's leader in interpreting and protecting the life, history and culture of our rivers, to create a more global, knowledgeable, and engaged citizen.

All items offered for the Society’s collection are carefully reviewed by staff and the Collections Committee before they are approved and accepted. To assist with the review process, donors are asked to provide photographs and information before bringing their items to the museum. Items brought to the museum without contacting staff first may not be accepted.

The quality and relevance of the collections are vital to the mission of the Dubuque County Historical Society. Therefore, acquisitions should meet the following criteria:

  1. Shall be relevant to the mission, purpose and priorities of the Dubuque County Historical Society and/or the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium.
  2. The museum must be able to store, protect, preserve and care for acquisitions in keeping with professionally accepted standards.
  3. Acquisitions must be accompanied by a valid legal title, obtained free and clear, to be transferred without restrictions to the Dubuque County Historical Society. All donations are considered outright, irrevocable and unconditional gifts to the Society to be used at the discretion of the museum.
  4. Acquisitions should not duplicate examples of items already present in the permanent collection of equal or superior quality.
  5. The Society will not knowingly acquire any item derived from illicit trade and shall subscribe to UNESCO guidelines regarding illicit import, export or transfer or ownership of cultural property.

To donate to the Society’s collections, please complete the linked form above. For questions, please contact Tish Boyer, Collections Manager/Registrar, at tboyer@rivermuseum.com.

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