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Muscatine Museum Joins Iowa Leadership Cohort

The National Pearl Button Museum

The head of a museum in Muscatine wants to show people how Mississippi River mussels affected Iowa history.

The National Pearl Button Museum has joined a group of arts and history organizations called the Iowa Culture Leadership Cohort. It'll teach Executive Director Dustin Joy ways to expand, or finetune operations.

Executive Director Dustin Joy.
The National Pearl Button Museum
Executive Director Dustin Joy.

Joy had been a pilot for over 20 years, when his airline went out of business during the COVID pandemic.

"I always loved museums and I particularly liked this one," he said. "I live on the other side of the river in Illinois, but I always admired this museum."

"Although I lacked some of the pertinent credentials that you might expect, they took a chance and decided that an airline pilot was the guy to run their museum, and I think they've been pretty pleased, and I've certainly enjoyed it a lot."

He says the two-year program will be an opportunity to learn from other organizations.

"There's also a mentorship aspect to this, where, as I understand it, we will have another organization which will be linked to us and will help us on a more regular, personal basis."

The Pearl Button Museum is one of 11 organizations picked this year for the state program. The Muscatine museum tells the story of the "Pearl City."

"It has aspects of manufacturing, it has entrepreneurship, it has, you know, the use of natural resources, and the lessons we learn from that, some pretty interesting stuff about these fascinating creatures that live in the river that we don't think about too much, and we talk about labor unions and the strikes that happened here in that era."

Other participants include Davenports German American Heritage Center and Azubuike African American Arts Council.

The leadership group was started a year ago by the State Historical Society of Iowa and the Iowa Arts Council.

The cohort will hold its first workshop at the end of November.

Rachel graduated from Michigan State University's J-School and has a background in broadcast and environmental journalism. Before WVIK, she worked for WKAR Public Media, Great Lakes Now, and more. In her free time, she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with her cat.