‘Civics in Action’ exhibit honors Iowans with disabilities

DES MOINES — The State Historical Society of Iowa has opened a new exhibit in its Des Moines museum.

Civics in Action” focuses on Iowans who’ve made significant contributions to the state and highlights people with disabilities.

It’s the historical society’s first exhibit after a five-year museum restoration, and focuses on people who have shaped the state’s history.

Museum Director Leo Landis with the historical society said while countless people and events have shaped Iowa, one person stands out for taking the lead in advocating for herself and others like her.

Mia Peterson, who had Down Syndrome, became a leader for her own cause when – Landis said – many Iowans had preconceived ideas about people living with disabilities.

“And so,” said Landis, “in seeing Mia’s story, will understand that there’s a really vibrant community of people in our state who just want to live life like everyone else, and want to be their own advocates.”

Peterson was one of the early members of the now influential Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, and became a national advocate for people living with disabilities. The “Civics in Action” exhibit runs through 2025.

Brooke Lovelace, the Council’s executive director, grew up with Peterson and said she was influenced by Peterson’s tenacity in advocating for those with Down Syndrome.

Lovelace said keeping Peterson’s legacy alive on behalf of people living with disabilities is crucial, and this exhibit reflects that.

“You know, she was a pioneer, for the self-advocacy movement and for civil rights for people with disabilities,” said Lovelace, “and it’s nice to see her recognized as part of Iowa history.”

Peterson died of Alzheimer’s disease-related symptoms two years ago, at age 47.