The history of the Sioux City Public Museum goes back to the earliest days of Sioux City's history. During the 1850s a group of local citizens formed the Sioux City Lyceum to present and collect natural science specimens from around the region and beyond. This institution evolved into the Academy of Science and Letters during the 1880s when it became more historical in focus. The organization continued to collect natural science items but also historical artifacts from Sioux City's past.
In 1938, the City of Sioux City established the Sioux City Public Museum incorporating the collections of the Academy into its displays in the old Carnegie Library at the corner of 6th and Jackson Streets. In 1960, the Museum moved into the John Peirce Mansion after it was given to the City by the Junior League of Sioux City. The Museum added the Sgt. Floyd River Museum & Welcome Center and Loren D. Callendar Gallery in 1997 and the Pearl Street Research Center in 2000.
The Museum expanded into a downtown facility that also consolidated its collections from the Pearl Street Research Center. Opening in April 2011, the new Sioux City Public Museum at 607 4th Street features large, colorful exhibits, interactive displays, and much more. It’s a must-see destination for residents and tourists alike.
The completion of the new $12.5 million museum facility represents an extensive public/private partnership that began in 2005. The City of Sioux City purchased the former JC Penney department store building for use as a new museum and appropriated $1.5 million for the project. The new museum occupies the first floor of the building — approximately 55,000 square feet of floor space, with about 10,000 square feet of two-story space as an atrium in the southwest corner of the building.
The modern glass façade, orange terra cotta, and vertical marquee create a distinctive entrance into the Sioux City Public Museum on the southwest corner of the building at 4th and Nebraska Streets. Inside the two-story atrium, the spectacular 35-ft. tall mural of the 1887 Sioux City Corn Palace draws visitors to the orientation theater.
After watching the lively 12-minute orientation film, visitors enter the permanent exhibit gallery by the interactive map of the Siouxland region. After learning more about the place that is now Sioux City, it is time to learn about the first people who inhabited the area. The Museum’s impressive collection of Native American artifacts is complimented by items on loan for the Office of the State Archeologist at the University of Iowa. Many of the artifacts from the Mill Creek culture dating to 1100 A.D. were unearthed at the Kimball site in southern Plymouth County, northwest of Stone State Park.
Early housing is represented by a Native American lodge house and tipi as well as a “hands-on” pioneer log cabin. Visitors experience Sioux City history at their own pace in a trolley car replica with an interactive photo gallery and a state-of-the-art computer generated interactive timeline highlighting the corporate history of Gateway and IBP.
Among the other highlights are Sioux City’s first “horseless buggy,” a 1901 Oldsmobile; a 1930 Kari-Keen airplane manufactured in Sioux City; and a 1918 Mack fire truck similar to ones used by the Sioux City Fire Department. The two-story Disaster and Recovery Wall features multi-media presentations of three major Sioux City catastrophes: the 1904 Pelletier Department Store fire, the 1953 Floyd River Flood, and the July 19, 1989 crash of United Airlines Flight 232.