Vol. 7, No. 4
May 2015

Mobile Museum travels across Iowa with Hygienic Lab onboard

More Iowans will learn about the many roles the State Hygienic Laboratory performs in safeguarding their health, as the University of Iowa Mobile Museum makes its way across the state.

The Mobile Museum, which plans stops at the Iowa State Fair, RAGBRAI and numerous other events this year, recently updated its exhibits to include a digital display featuring the Hygienic Laboratory.

Identifying diseases, emergency preparedness, and newborn and environmental testing are among the topics explored in the touch-screen display, through videos, a quiz and other interactive features.

"I think it's really important for the community — our state — to know what the lab does for them on a daily basis," said Drew Fayram, coordinator of the Center for the Advancement of Laboratory Science, who represented the Hygienic Laboratory on the project. "I think the Mobile Museum is an incredible resource for the University and the whole state."

Robyn Miessler-Kubanek stands by the Hygienic Laboratory’s display in the University of Iowa Mobile Museum. Miessler-Kubanek wrote and designed the interactive display with J.C. Gillett, UI manager of the Mobile Museum, and members of the Hygienic Laboratory staff. Development of the display is her master’s capstone project for the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Educator J.C. Gillett said the Mobile Museum traveled approximately 11,000 miles as it journeyed across Iowa during its inaugural year in 2014. It visited 48 communities in 36 counties, and attracted 33,433 visitors.

"It didn't matter the age," Gillett said. "Almost every single person walked off the bus saying, 'I didn't know that.' That was the most rewarding part."

The Mobile Museum launched its second season in early April, which included a stop at the Hygienic Laboratory in Coralville.

Robyn Miessler-Kubanek, a graduate student in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communications’ Strategic Communications program, developed the display's content as the capstone project for her degree.

The quiz questions and other features are designed to keep visitors engaged and provide an understanding of the many roles of the Hygienic Laboratory, she said, while videos recorded by students in the lab's mentorship program highlight another core tenet of the lab's mission: supporting education.

"I was trying to target middle school and high school students," said Miessler-Kubanek, who works at the Carver College of Medicine in addition to her graduate studies. "That's who I was keeping in mind."

Other features in the display include "Brody's Story," about a newborn diagnosed with Biotinidase Deficiency after he was screen as an infant by the Iowa’s Newborn Screening Program; tales from Project AWARE, a river cleanup effort co-sponsored by the Hygienic Laboratory; testing to find the genetic “fingerprint” of a disease; and identifying an airborne chemical during an emergency training drill.

Fayram noted that besides the digital display, the Hygienic Laboratory also provided some of the data for the Mobile Museum's "Water Underground" exhibit, which explains the chemistry of water and Iowa's bedrock aquifer systems, as well as arsenic pollution in drinking water.

Other features highlight UI contributions to space exploration and stories of Iowans in World War II, as told through letters, diaries, photographs and artifacts from the UI Libraries Special Collections and University Archives. The Mobile Museum is sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and two of its reporting units: the Office of the State Archaeologist and the Pentacrest Museums.