Tom Morain Receives Top Award for Iowa Museum Association

Tom Morain

Cedar Falls – The Iowa Museum Association will honor Tom Morain from Graceland University with the organization’s Leadership Award on Monday, Oct. 17, during its annual meeting in Ames. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the museum field through visionary leadership. Candidates must have been employed in top leadership roles in museums and have made a statewide impact on the museum field. Lynette Pohlman, director and chief curator, of Iowa State University Museums since 1980, will also receive the Leadership Award.

Morain began his museum career at Living History Farms in 1981 and has continued to serve the cause of Iowa museums and Iowa history at both the State Historical Society of Iowa and Graceland University. One of his most wide-reaching contributions is the establishment of the undergraduate internship program at Living History Farms, which began in 1982 and continues to this day. The program trains interns to understand the role of public history in inspiring the public to seek a more complete understanding of the past while providing exceptional public programs. Hundreds of students have gone through this program, which has produced museum leaders and professionals in Iowa and across the country.

In Morain’s nomination, Leo Landis, curator at the State Historical Museum and himself a graduate of the LHF internship program, wrote, “Tom’s guidance and mentorship allowed me to see that museum work could be more than a summer job. I could see his passion for sharing Iowa’s story in his training methods for interpreters, his public program planning and research, and the work being done by every staff member Tom supervised. I was struck by the sense of mission he held for his work and how that translated into the entire interpretation staff. His inspiration changed my life.”

For the 36 years the program has been in existence, it has been administered from Graceland University by Pat Hoffman, who directs such off-campus programs. Morain set up the program with Hoffman and worked with her for a dozen years. Internship administrators have come and gone at Living History Farms, but Hoffman has been the constant steady hand from the university.

After 14 years at Living History Farms, Morain accepted the call to serve as administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa for six years, following which he accepted a position in teaching and administration at Graceland University.

In 2002, Morain received the Humanities Iowa Distinguished Service Award from Humanities Iowa, the state arm of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2009, the State Historical Society also honored him with its highest designation, the Harlan/Petersen Award for Lifetime Service to Iowa History. In 2015, Governor Branstad appointed Morain to the Teaching Iowa History Committee of the Department of Education to review educational standards and set goals for K-12 curriculum.