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Shattered Dreams: The Rural Crisis

In January 2011, the Iowa History Center at Simpson College received an extraordinary gift: a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs taken by photojournalist David Peterson that documents the Iowa Farm Crisis of the Mid-1980’s. The collection of images from the crisis was featured in the Des Moines Register on Dec. 7, 1986.

“Dave Peterson’s fine photographs record an important and tragic part of our recent past,” said Bill Friedricks, who founded the Iowa History Center in 2006. “They provide a moving portrait of the very human dimension of the 1980s farm crisis, when many rural Iowans struggled to keep their homes and their land amidst tumbling crop prices. We at the Iowa History Center at Simpson College are dedicated to preserving Iowa’s history and encouraging discussion about this past. These photographs do just that.”

Peterson, before retiring early, was a photographer for the Register for 30 years. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the depiction of the era that, at the time, was called the worst farm economy since the Great Depression.

Making Simpson the permanent home for his collection of historic photos made sense, Peterson said. Starting in 2009, Peterson briefly served as the photographer for the campus and student experience for Simpson’s alumni magazine, marketing publications and the website.

“I feel like a part of the Simpson family, Peterson said. “Because of that, it’s easy for me to trust Simpson College with the most important photographic work of my career.”