the lower level of the building is home to the 360-degree, 1,091-square-foot, vibrantly-colored mural by artist Harry Donald Jones (and a team of twenty-one other researchers, artists and artisans) entitled “A Social History of Des Moines.”
The mural traces the history of Des Moines from prehistoric times through the mid-1930s, when it was created (1937-1941).This mural was designed to dominate the walls of the newly opening Boys' and Girls' Department.
Funded by the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA), the mural was supervised by Iowa native Grant Wood (who was then the Iowa Director of Mural Projects for the WPA), one of the greatest American artists of the first-half of the 20th century and the creator of the iconic “American Gothic” painting.
Its “social” interpretation of Des Moines' history was inspired by a quotation by author H.G. Wells, in which Wells proposes a new method to describe and explore history. The mural portrays two primary themes: First, that social responsibility is superior to the individual accumulation of wealth; and second, that regional forms are preferable to imported European ones.
The team of artists employed contrasting images of war and peace, simplicity and sophistication, and greed and cooperation to convey these themes, producing an end result that not only portrays the specific history of central Iowa, but also a broader social history of mankind.
It was preserved by experts during the renovation process, and when the interactive educational exhibits open, there will be a tool with which to explore each panel. Now, this mural will once again serve as the setting for young people's education, as the home of the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute and a part of the museum's multimedia educational wing.
To view photo gallery of the Mural Room, click here.