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Photo of the Academy of Science and Letters

Date: 1895


Description: This photo is of a group of men and women of the Sioux City Academy of Science and Letters, an ancestor of the Sioux City Public Museum. The Academy itself has its origins in a group called the Sioux City Lyceum formed in 1858. The Lyceum formed a place where Sioux City’s earliest high class and intellectual citizens could come and hear lectures and debates on various topics, from the railroad to the Civil War to the treatment of Native Americans. It eventually developed into the Sioux City Scientific Association in 1886, and its charter members included Sioux City scientific greats like Daniel H. Talbot. Here the members met to discuss and debate scientific topics, and they met at various places around the city before finally settling at the library in the building that was then City Hall. In 1903 the organization changed again to the Sioux City Academy of Science and Letters, for the purpose of expanding its discussion topics to include not only science but history, politics, sociology, and literature. The Academy began building collections of natural history as well as local history, and stored them at the new public library in 1913.


In 1941 the Academy changed again to the Woodbury County Historical Society, in order to develop closer ties to the state historical society. They eventually founded the Sioux City Public Museum, which operated out of the Public Library until it was moved as its own institution into the Peirce Mansion on Jackson Street, which had been granted to the city in the 1960s. The museum first opened to the public in 1961. In 2000 the storage collections outgrew the Mansion and they were moved to the Pearl Street Research Center, with the Mansion still operating as the Public Museum. In 2010 the two were combined again into the former J. C. Penney building at 607 4th Street, where they both operate today.


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