This essay examines persistence and change in very small communities, something that has particularly concerned researchers since the 1930s. The USDA examined these issues in its “Culture of A Contemporary Rural Community” series in the early 1940s and re-evaluated these communities in the wake of the farm crisis in the early 1990s. For a multitude of reasons, the long-term experiences of the communities often bore very little relation to the predictions made in the 1940s. This article discusses a planned project to re-examine one of these small places, Irwin, Iowa, in order to understand how very small communities continue to exist in the face of numerous challenges and predictions of their demise. Irwin's experiences will be placed in context with those of a group of other small, but persistent, Iowa communities. The address ends with a call to historians to make use of their skills in examining other practical problems facing rural people.

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