Visit us in person, or join us virtually through our new virtual tour!

Prairie Trails

Prairie Trails, our main building, is home to exhibits that illustrate Shelby County’s history. In Prairie Trails you will find interactive exhibits ranging from a Youth Maker Space to a Military Exhibit Hall. If you are interested in researching, Prairie Trails also houses our Alwill Genealogy Research Center.

Hoskins Building

The Hoskins Building houses our collection of objects relating to Native American history. Learn about the inhabitants of Shelby County before the arrival of European settlers. The lower level of this building contains many interesting commerce related items including horse-drawn farming equipment, blacksmith shop, and cobbler’s shop.

Leland Cabin

Please note: Tours of the Leland and McIntosh cabins are currently unavailable while preservation work is performed. We estimate tours will resume Summer 2024.

This cabin was built in 1856 by Benjamin Leland and Samuel Lytle, Samuel was married to Benjamin’s daughter Sarah J. Leland. The cabin was constructed to house the two families and contained two rooms and a loft. The cabin was donated to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Elven Steenbock and moved to its current location in 1972. 

McIntosh Cabin

Please note: Tours of the Leland and McIntosh cabins are currently unavailable while preservation work is performed. We estimate tours will resume Summer 2024.

Our McIntosh Cabin was built in 1857 by John McIntosh. This father of 15 lived with his large family in this home located in Grove Township. Over the years, updates were made as new discoveries and inventions occurred including the addition of electricity 1948. The building was moved to its current location in 1970.‚Äč

Virtual Tour

Check out our virtual tour to see all that the Shelby County Historical Museum has to offer! The virtual tour was created by longtime member of our Board of Directors, David Gaul.

Alwill Genealogy Research Center

The Shelby County Historical Museum is a great place to conduct family research whether in person or through our long-distance research request form. We have a knowledgeable and friendly staff who cannot wait to help you. Our comfortable reading room provides the perfect environment to research family history.

If you are planning on visiting the museum to complete your research, we strongly recommend you schedule an appointment two weeks in advance to ensure we can assist you properly. We realize that not everyone has the time to come to our museum to complete your own research, so we also offer long-distance research services as well! For your long-distance research please fill out this Research Request Form.

Research Cost


 In-Person Research Long-Distance Research
 Member Cost Free Free 
 Non-Member Cost $10/day $15/hour
We have a wide variety of sources for you whether you are looking to complete research in person or through long-distance research. We are in the process of making our records available online for our members. Login to your membership portal to see all records available online.

Available Records

31 Shelby County cemetery records that include maps and names

1,290 military records/documents for Shelby County veterans dating back to the American Civil War

2,175 probate records from 1860–1924

7,857 probate records from 1925–1996

10,742 Old-Age Assistance Tax Records that include birth place, birth date, and parent names

1,895 birth/baptism announcements

10,487 obituaries, funeral cards, and newspaper death announcements

1,818 photographs relating to Shelby County

Church records

Family and local histories

Harlan High School Yearbooks from 1895 to present (except 1899, 1918, and 1922)

Pedigree charts, photographs, and other documents for Shelby County's 200+ Century Farms

Newspaper clippings, family pedigree charts, and artifacts in a searchable database

Plat maps dating from 1875–2013

The Shelby County Historical Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1964. This four building complex is located at 1805 Morse Avenue Harlan, Iowa 51537.

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