Conversations concerning the need for a state museum association began in October 1974. The organizational meeting of the IMA was held on May 28, 1976 at Scheman Continuing Education Building, Iowa State University. In attendance were Bill Diamond, Richard Leet, Stan Wiederspan, Fred Easker, Ben J. Taylor, Glyde J. Wheeler, Antonia Hamilton, Ronald Westphal, R.R. Atwood, Joseph Cartwright, Marion J. Nelson, Nancy Gillespie, and Lynette Pohlman.
The Iowa Museum Association was founded as an all volunteer organization. During the first meeting the purpose of a state museum association was discussed and possible functions summarized. Bill Diamond was nominated to serve as the association's first president, and Stan Wiederspan as the chair of the program committee for the next meeting of the newly formed association, October 25, 1976 at Scheman Building, Ames. That conference was hosted by Lynette Pohlman, Director of the Brunnier Museum.
For the next 28 years, volunteers from across the state provided workshops, seminars, and annual meetings to provide professional education opportunities in Iowa.
In 2003, IMA hired its first Executive Director to make the organization more responsive to the needs of museums across the state and to provide leadership in educating the general public, community leaders, and other decision-makers about the importance of museums and the contributions they make to the cultural life of all Iowans. Jennie Bailey, Des Moines, was hired as the organization’s first Executive Director and served in that capacity until 2007. Under her leadership the organization's structure took shape and mission based activities were implemented. Cynthia Sweet became the second Executive Director of the Iowa Museum Association in September 2007.
The IMA fills an important role in the state by providing a centralized office through which Iowa museum professionals and volunteers may make connections, find industry specific professional development, and communicate and collaborate with colleagues. The IMA provides a statewide communication network, professional development, advocacy, and member engagement opportunities. The IMA is the only Iowa organization offering an annual opportunity for college and university students to meet with museum staff members to explore internship and service learning opportunities.
The Iowa Museum Association serves museum staff, volunteers, board members, student interns, and anyone interested in museums across the state of Iowa.
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