The museum project was prompted by two initial contributions of $300,000 by Des Moines businessmen Richard L. Easter and Richard O. Jacobson. Phase I included the construction of Richard O. Jacobson Hall, a climate-controlled facility to house an interactive exhibit detailing the Fair since its inception in 1854. The exhibit, Phase II of the project, was made possible by a generous $400,000 gift by Iowa natives Ronald and Margaret Kenyon. The Ronald and Margaret Kenyon Gallery debuted at the 2005 Iowa State Fair with exciting and innovative displays including a livestock judging contest, a thrilling train crash and a revolving carousel sporting the evolution of Fair fashions.
Phase III renovation to the original State Fair Museum was prompted by a $300,000 commitment by Chuck and Sally Smith of Atlanta, Georgia. These improvements included a new basement, as well as an addition to the original structure containing an elevator, a restroom, storage room, work room and exhibit rooms on both the first and second levels. Additional contributions from the late Emery Burchett, Dick and Sherry Easter, Rod and Connie French, Ronald and Margaret Kenyon and Madelyn Levitt made the completion of this building project possible.
In 2007, exterior and interior designs of the Ralph H. Deets Historical Museum were completed, and further interior design is planned for the future. Additional improvements include providing archival quality storage and properly preserving the museum’s collection of artifacts; funds are still needed to bring this project to completion.
To learn more about the Richard L. Easter Museum Complex and how you can help preserve over 150 years of history, take a look at the Blue Ribbon Foundation's giving program the 1854 Society.