Make it Muscatine: The Putnam Museum

DAVENPORT, Iowa–Founded in 1867 as the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences, the Putnam Museum has provided visitors of all ages from across Iowa and the Illinois Quad Cities with fun and engaging learning experiences. Their exhibits, both permanent and traveling, have stood the test of time, and they continue to strive to meet their mission, which President and CEO Rachel Mullins describes as bringing, “to life a sense of place, time, and purpose to ignite human potential,” and inspiring, “our diverse community to learn about and care for our world and all its people.”

Though the Putnam Museum resides outside of Muscatine County at 1717 West 12th Street, Davenport, it has numerous ties to the community. Through generous funding from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust and other donors, the Putnam operates its Science Center, which provides hands-on science experiences for people of all ages to enjoy together and that align with local curricula. In their recently opened World Cultures Gallery, items from the museum’s collection of 250,000 artifacts, as well as those loaned by regional residents, represent pieces of history from all over the world. Muscatine has its own niche in this collection, with pearl buttons and local plant samples on display.

Along with celebrating the region’s history, the Putnam Museum also helps bring the wider world to those living in Muscatine County. In their permanent “Unearthing Ancient Egypt” exhibit, visitors can view real ancient Egyptian artifacts and learn about Egyptian culture at the time they built the pyramids. Their upcoming roster of traveling or short-term exhibits, including “The Colors of Culture” (which looks at the role colors play in art and design across the world), “OMg! Elements of Surprise (an exploration of the periodic table), “Birds and You,” “Faces of the Past,” and “Blueprints: Biomimicry in Art and Design,” will also let people explore scientific and social studies related topics they may otherwise never have come across.

For years, the Putnam Museum has worked with people from Muscatine County to give them opportunities to experience their many inspiring and informative collections. “We particularly love working with Muscatine educators to plan their Putnam experiences,” said Mullins. “They’re so eager to expose their students to the wider world- past and present, and then getting to see the museum through the eyes of those students when they visit- they’re so curious and engaged – it helps me see the world in the fresh, exciting way that they do, which is a wonderful thing.”

To help continue to grow these partnerships and develop new ones, the Puntnam Museum joined the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry this year. “In a non-pandemic year, we serve thousands of residents of Muscatine County, and we want even more people from the area to be aware of, feel connected to, and take advantage of this regional icon,” emphasized Mullins. “Being a member of the Greater Muscatine Chamber lets us both spread the word about the rich experiences available at the Museum and can help us build partnerships that lead to new, exciting, and relevant offerings for residents of Muscatine and beyond.”