Inside the walls of the old Douglas Mansion, there are answers to nearly any question on Linn County that you might have.
That’s thanks to the mansion’s current tenant, The History Center — one of the MedQuarter Regional Medical District’s most unique attractions.
“Our archives and collections right now are bumping up around 70,000 pieces,” said Jason Wright, executive director.
If someone in Linn County wants to investigate their genealogy, dig into the history of their home or learn more about how their neighborhood has transformed over time, The History Center has answers.
It gets over 300 inquiries each year for help from its research library, Wright said.
“We have a really amazing group of volunteers that are librarians that dive deep, gather all these materials, and then when the person comes for their appointment, they have a huge box of authentic material to sort through to get their answers,” he said.
Location contributes to success for center
The History Center does much more than maintain a massive library. It also operates a permanent Linn County history exhibit and two rotating galleries, on top of school field trips and myriad other programming, such as the popular Spooky Legends ghost stories event.
This is all possible thanks in part to being located in the MedQuarter. Wright said a third of History Center visitors stop into the museum simply because they saw the “open” signs outside.
“People doing their business, doing their medical appointments here drives one-third of our audience,” Wright said. “That’s magnificent!”
The MedQuarter has helped in other ways, too. One major avenue was in the form of two Façade Improvement Grants which helped complete $2 million in renovations to the Douglas Mansion.
Wright said The History Center is currently working on another, smaller fundraising campaign to repair its parking lot, add a digital sign and other renovations to improve guest experiences. The goal is bolstering foot traffic from MedQuarter visitors.
COVID-19 inspires new use of History Center’s outdoor amenities
During the heat of the coronavirus pandemic, Wright said The History Center had to move some of its events outside to the lawn, including the Oral Histories LIVE! series.
While the initial goal was guest safety, Wright said people really enjoyed the outdoor events and having their own little space on the grass.
“As much programming as we can do out on this gorgeous lawn overlooking that MedQuarter,” he said, “we do.”
800 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
Hours: noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays
Admission: Fees vary