Museum Collection

Our Collection

The museum’s collection of historical artifacts is the heart of the Iowa Jewish Historical Society (IJHS). It documents the lives of Jewish Iowans from 1833—the year that the first permanent Jewish settler arrived in Iowa—to the present day.

About the Artifacts

The IJHS collection focuses on Iowa’s Jewish families, religious institutions, political participation, and educational, social, philanthropic, and economic activities. Together, these artifacts provide personal perspectives and insight into all aspects of Jewish life in Iowa. In our collection, you’ll find:

  • Photographs
  • Newspapers
  • Scrapbooks
  • Paintings
  • Furniture
  • Textiles
  • Medical instruments
  • Religious and community group documents
  • Personal and family artifacts
  • Business records
  • Holocaust-related material
  • Jewish religious artifacts
  • Audio and videotape oral histories

Featured Piece: Schindler Enamelware Cup

In addition to its importance to Iowa history, the IJHS collection includes artifacts of national and international significance for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. One of these is an enamelware cup made in Oskar Schindler’s factory in Krakow, Poland, during World War II.

Enamel Cup

This simple cup was used by the Karp family—Irvin, Phyllis, and their 13-year-old daughter Celina—who survived the Holocaust by their inclusion on “Schindler’s List.” The family used the cup, or “pot” as they called it, when they worked in Schindler’s factory in Brünnlitz, Czechoslovakia, and they brought it with them when they immigrated to Des Moines. Current research indicates that it may be one of only a few cups in the world that can be identified with the person or family on Schindler’s List who used it.

Our Collections Policy

The purpose of a collections policy is to establish procedures and criteria for the acquisition, exhibition, preservation, and management of the Society’s collections. View our collections policy to learn the details. If you’re interested in donating an item to the collection, we’d love to hear from you!


Our staff is happy to answer questions about the collection, schedule an appointment for you to visit, and assist with research. Please contact us at or by calling 515-987-0899 ext. 216.