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Nebraska State Historical Society Annual Report
1999 - 2000

Contents: President's Message | From the Director | Awards | Administration | Volunteers | Library/Archives | Museum/Historic Sites | Museum of Nebraska History | Chimney Rock | Fort Robinson | Thomas P. Kennard House | Neligh Mill | Senator George W. Norris | Willa Cather | John G. Neihardt | Research & Publication | State Historic Preservation Office | Archeology | Conservation | NSHS Foundation | Financial Report

President's Message

Many people dart through Nebraska via the "Great Platte River Road." Millions of people, from the earliest wagon train travelers to today's swift Interstate 80 voyagers, have literally passed through Nebraska on their way to somewhere else. As one noted Nebraska journalist said, to fully appreciate Nebraska's history and beauty you must "get lost on the highways and byways of Nebraska." Those, both past and present, who fail to see the treasures of Nebraska as they scurry through are to be pitied. It is that lack of vision into Nebraska's rich past and promising future that the Nebraska State Historical Society is diligently working to alleviate.

Bess Streeter Aldrich, noted Nebraska author, often wrote of her love for life in Nebraska, using real life scenes
and people for the basis of her quasi-fictional characters, plots, and settings. From the introduction of A Lantern in Her Hand, as Aldrich sets the scene for the fictional Cedartown, she expresses appreciation for Nebraska's beauty, both superficially and buried deep in people and places. "Cedartown is neither effete nor distinctive nor is it even particularly pleasing to passing tourists. It is beautiful only in the eyes of those who live here and in the memories of the Nebraska-born whose dwelling in far places has given them moments of home-sickness for the low rolling fields of sinuously waving corn and the elusive fragrant odor of alfalfa."

The Nebraska State Historical Society is working to expand the number who can perceive this beauty from its past history and the future that is brimming with promise. The NSHS is working diligently to share this not only with Nebraskans, but with others beyond its borders. One specific goal of the Society's Board of Trustees has been the outreach endeavor of NSHS membership. Membership benefits both the giver and the receiver and allows Nebraska's history to have an even greater audience.

The Society's board has benefitted inordinately by its association with the Society's staff. These individuals, both individually and collectively, have served as inspirations for the board and other Nebraska enthusiasts. Under the exceptional leadership of Director Lawrence Sommer, the Society staff is able to build on Nebraska's past with a vision for the future. What a wonderfully talented group of people!

The board has also had the great pleasure of serving with the NSHS Foundation, particularly Executive Director Jac Spahn. We look forward to our continued mutually supportive relationship.

Those serving on the current Board of Trustees are ardent promoters of Nebraska history. I am honored to work with these individuals as we seek to further the NSHS's mission. We invite you, the members, to become more involved with your Society. It is working hard to share your state's illustrious past as the foundation for the twenty-first century.

Sara B. Crook

From the Director

Annual reports provide a forum for reviewing an organization's progress toward fulfilling its mission. This report highlights the activities and accomplishments of the Nebraska State Historical Society during the past year. As you read it, I am sure you will agree that the Society is continuing to make significant progress toward fulfilling its mission to safeguard and interpret Nebraska's past.

During the 1999-2000 fiscal year the Society again experienced stable attendance at the Museum of Nebraska History in Lincoln and at its historic sites across the state. Society program activities continued to attract widespread attention and draw growing numbers of participants. As noted in this report, significant new artifacts, books, manuscripts, photographs, and other items were added to Society collections. New publications were released. Historic properties and archeological sites across the state were inventoried and recognized. The Society's conservation center in Omaha continued to expand its client base and national reputation in providing conservation treatment, training, and technical assistance to museums, libraries, and related historical institutions throughout Nebraska, the Midwest and, indeed, the entire United States. The Society's digital imaging lab at the Ford Center is pushing the frontiers of what this technology can do in the field of photo analysis as a tool for historical research. Throughout the year an ever-increasing number of people accessed Society services and resources electronically via the NSHS website at This is a trend that will continue.

The 2000 Nebraska Legislature appropriated funds for architectural design work related to the renovation of the NSHS headquarters building and for leasing of space in the new Lincoln Children's Museum building. Within a year or so we hope to begin actual renovation of the Society's fifty-year-old headquarters building. As part of this planned work, the Archeology and Historic Preservation divisions will relocate to the new Children's Museum building across the street from the Museum of Nebraska History.

My sincere thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees, staff, and volunteers for their time and effort making sure the Society accomplishes its goals. A special thanks to Governor Mike Johanns and members of the Nebraska Legislature for the state's continued support.

Again this past year the Society enjoyed significant support from the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. NSHS Foundation funds supported everything from publications to acquisitions for Society collections to internships, National History Day travel scholarships, and research fellowships for visiting scholars. We thank the NSHS Foundation for its important and welcome assistance.

I also wish to thank NSHS Trustees Jane Graff of Seward and Martha Ellen Webb of Omaha for their service to the Society. Their second terms as trustees are ending, and they are not eligible for reelection or appointment. Their interest and good counsel will be missed.

As we begin the new millennium, the Nebraska State Historical Society stands ready to serve the people of Nebraska for many generations to come.

Lawrence J. Sommer
Director and State Historic Preservation Officer

Nebraska State Historical Society Awards

The Society presented awards recognizing significant achievement in various categories at its 1999 annual meeting and history conference in Lincoln.

The Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history was presented to Bertha W. Calloway, founder and longtime director of the Great Plains Black Museum in Omaha, who was also recognized for her years of service to the NAACP.

Patrick Kennedy, a teacher at Benson High School in Omaha, received the A. T. Hill Memorial Award for significant contributions to Nebraska archeology. Kennedy researched a community of African Americans living in rural Nemaha County and in Brownville in the late nineteenth century. His findings led to an archeological excavation of a farmstead believed to be the residence of black laborers who worked for Nemaha County farmer Benton Aldrich in the 1880s.

The James L. Sellers Memorial Award for the best article published in the previous year's volume of Nebraska History went to Joseph G. Agonito, professor of American history at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York. Agonito's article, "Young Man Afraid of His Horses: The Reservation Years," appeared in the Fall 1998 issue of Nebraska History.

Several individuals and organizations shared the Nebraska Preservation Award for their contributions to the Lincoln African American Documentation Project. They included Kathryn E. Colwell; the Mt. Zion Baptist Church; the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church; the Newman United Methodist Church; Christ Temple Mission; and Lebanon Lodge No. 3, F. & A.M., Prince Hall affiliation.

The Robert W. Furnas Award for outstanding contributions to the Nebraska State Historical Society was presented to the Lozier Foundation of Omaha for its financial support and business counseling in the establishment of the digital imaging laboratory at the Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha.

The Society also presents awards at a special celebration in May to recognize outstanding student projects in the annual National History Day: Nebraska contest. For 2000 the senior division award went to Michelle Guittar, Sara Guittar, Pam Moeller, and Sana Khan of the Lincoln High School Science Focus Program for their documentary project titled "Standing Bear." Their teacher is Jim Barstow. The junior division award recognized Lane Skavdahl and Andrew Ellicott of Harrison Elementary School for their documentary project "Homesteading Sweet Nebraskaland." Their teacher is Donna Skavdahl.

In addition to these two awards, state winners in the various History Day categories who went on to compete in the national History Day contest in Maryland received travel scholarships provided by the Lux History Education Endowment administered by the NSHS Foundation.

Administration Division

" The mission of the Nebraska State Historical Society is to safeguard and interpret Nebraska's past."

The director, as chief executive officer of the Society, implements board policy, administers the budget, and represents the institution to the public and to a variety of funding sources. The director and administrative staff work to provide the personnel and financial resources the Society needs to fulfill its mission. In addition to administration, the Society operates with six major divisions: Museum/Historic Sites, Historic Preservation, Library/Archives, Research and Publications, Archeology, and Conservation. Each division is managed by an associate director, who reports to the Society director.


Administration Division

Historical Society Volunteers


Volunteer Opportunities

Library/Archives Division

" The mission of the Library/Archives Division is to safeguard the documentary heritage of Nebraska for the use of all."

The Library/Archives Division is charged with the collection, management, and preservation of a wide spectrum of published and unpublished documentary materials and provides access to them for the researching public.

The Society's library contains approximately eighty thousand volumes, and includes books, periodicals, newspapers, state publications, and more than three thousand maps and atlases. In its manuscript collections are the papers of families and individuals and the records of Nebraska businesses, organizations, religious groups, and private educational institutions. The archival collections also include some 250,000 photographs, 6.5 million feet of moving images on film and videotape, and state, county, and local government records of permanent value as mandated by legislative acts of 1905 and 1969. Together, these documents provide vital testimony to the history and culture of Nebraska.


Library/Archives Division

Museum/Historic Sites Division

" The mission of the Museum/Historic Sites Division is to educate people about Nebraska's past through historic artifacts and historic places."

The division gathers, preserves, researches, and interprets artifacts and sites representing Nebraska's rich and diverse human experience, and provides the broadest possible public access to these resources. The museum is Nebraska's official and preeminent artifact repository. Its collections serve as the basis for exhibitions, programs, publications, and educational outreach. Through a variety of media, the division gives people firsthand experience with the physical remnants of past life and the places where Nebraska history was made.

The division administers the Museum of Nebraska History in Lincoln and oversees seven historic sites statewide. The education and statewide services, exhibition, museum collections, and historic sites departments form partnerships with individuals and organizations around the state and across the country to enrich people's lives by increasing their understanding and enjoyment of Nebraska's past.

Museum of Nebraska History


Museum/Historic Sites Division

Historic Sites

The Nebraska State Historical Society's historic sites program provides people with the opportunity to see and experience firsthand where some of our state's most exciting history has taken place. More than 79,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Society's seven historic sites during the past year.


Chimney Rock National Historic Site
Bayard, Nebraska

" The mission of the Chimney Rock National Historic Site is to interpret the historical significance of Chimney Rock, the most famous landmark on the Oregon-California Trail, as it relates to the westward overland migration and its influences on Nebraska history."


Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Fort Robinson Museum
Crawford, Nebraska

" The mission of the Fort Robinson Museum is to preserve and interpret the historic resources associated with Fort Robinson for the benefit of the public and to add to those resources through research."


Fort Robinson Museum

Thomas P. Kennard House
Lincoln, Nebraska

" The mission of the Thomas P. Kennard House, Nebraska Statehood Memorial, is to preserve the home of Nebraska's first secretary of state, and interpret domestic and political life in the era when Nebraska became a state."


Thomas P. Kennard House Nebraska Statehood Memorial

Neligh Mill State Historic Site
Neligh, Nebraska

" The mission of the Neligh Mill State Historic Site is to preserve the state's only nineteenth-century flour mill with original equipment in order to interpret the importance of the milling industry to the history of Nebraska."


Neligh Mill State Historic Site

Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site
McCook, Nebraska

" The mission of the Senator George Norris State Historic Site is to relate the story of a nationally-significant Nebraska politician through preservation and interpretation of his home and its furnishings."


Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site

Willa Cather State Historic Site
Red Cloud, Nebraska

" The mission of the Willa Cather State Historic Site is to preserve and interpret sites significant in the life and work of one of Nebraska's greatest authors and to make Cather-related materials available to researchers."


Willa Cather State Historic Site

John G. Neihardt State Historic Site
Bancroft, Nebraska

" The mission of the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site is to interpret the legacy of Nebraska's poet laureate through exhibits and the preservation of the historic study in which he worked."


John G. Neihardt State Historic Site

Research & Publication Division

" The mission of the Research and Publications Division is to promote research leading to a better understanding of the history and culture of Nebraska and its people, and to disseminate the results."

The Research and Publications Division publishes the Society's quarterly, Nebraska History, and conducts research leading to the publication of books, archeological reports, and historical documents about the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains. The division provides editorial services to other Society divisions, coordinates the state historical marker program, and compiles the "Nebraska Timeline" column provided weekly to Nebraska newspapers through the Nebraska Press Association.


Research and Publications Division

State Historic Preservation Office

" The mission of the State Historic Preservation Office is to promote the preservation and enhancement of the cultural resources of the state of Nebraska."

The Society administers Nebraska's historic preservation program under the National Historic Preservation Act. The program includes the Nebraska Historic Buildings Survey, archeological surveys, the National Register of Historic Places for Nebraska, review of federal undertakings, and assistance to developers of historic rehabilitation projects qualifying for federal tax incentives. The Nebraska State Historic Preservation Board serves in an advisory capacity to the state historic preservation program, including the review and recommendation of properties to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service issues certification to participate in federally sponsored programs of historic preservation and supports the preservation program with grant funding for office operations, local government preservation programs, and survey projects.


State Historic Preservation Office

Archeology Division

" The mission of the Archeology Division is to preserve, enhance, explore, and interpret Nebraska's archeological resources for the benefit of the public and the advancement of science."

The division's primary responsibility is operation of the Nebraska Highway Archeology Program. Division staff evaluate all proposed highway and federal-aid county road improvements in the state for potential impact to significant archeological and historic sites. If such sites cannot be avoided, staff carries out excavation programs. The Archeology Division conducts similar work for other agencies, such as the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The archeological collection includes three thousand boxes of artifacts managed and curated by division staff. The division is the primary repository for reports and archival material involving Nebraska archeological investigations. Staff members are actively engaged in Great Plains archeological research and publishing.


Archeology Division

Conservation Division

" The mission of the Conservation Division is to conserve the historical, cultural, and educational collections
of the state of Nebraska and surrounding areas through preservation activities and conservation treatment
of objects, paper and archive materials, and textiles."

The Conservation Division provides conservation and preservation services for the cultural, historical, and educational collections of Nebraska and the region. Services include consultation, assessment of collection condition, assessment of conservation needs, educational opportunities and training for residents of the region, and the specialized conservation treatment of collection materials.


Conservation Division

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation was incorporated in 1942 as a public, nonprofit, 501(c)3 charitable organization. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting the Historical Society by securing private funding necessary to meet its goals, its objectives, and its mission.

A strong, private-public partnership is vital to the Nebraska State Historical Society accomplishing its mission. The Society has developed projects that would enhance and expand its role preserving Nebraska history and its effectiveness in disseminating the remarkable story of Nebraska. The Historical Society does not receive funding at a level to implement those plans. It is private support that makes it possible to go beyond the minimum expectations of capturing, preserving, and sharing the unique aspects of Nebraska's heritage. Private gifts assure that Nebraska's history will be collected, preserved, and accessible well into the future.

The Foundation receives support for the Historical Society's activities in many sizes from many sources. We are pleased to recognize and thank those donors who generously provided support during our 1999-2000 fiscal year.

Stewards and Guardians are very special partners with the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. Their support, through contributions and/or bequests, represents exceptional gift leadership. Their gifts provide dependable, long-term funding for ongoing programs at the Historical Society. Individuals who have planned gifts that will benefit Nebraska history in the future are also recognized.

Gifts of cash, appreciated securities, personal property, real estate, and/or life insurance can reduce or eliminate income tax, capital gains, and inheritance taxes. Your gifts may also provide a guaranteed life income for you through a deferred gift arrangement. If you would like to discover how, in strict confidence and without obligation, your gift can generate benefits for you and protect the rich history of our state please contact the Foundation.

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
408 Lincoln Center Bldg.
215 Centennial Mall South
Lincoln, NE 68508-1813
Telephone: 402-435-3535 Fax: 402-435-3986

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation

Financial Report

Financial Report, Nebraska State Historical Society
Fiscal Year 1999-2000 Operations
(Based on preliminary year-end information. Excludes fiscal year accruals.)


Revenues                         %     Dollar Amounts

State Appropriations          68.04        $3,658,149
NSHS Foundation Support        2.71           145,801*
Earned Income                 18.42           990,313
Federal Grants/Contracts       8.00           430,134
Donations/Grants/Spec. Events  2.83           151,993

Total Revenues                             $5,376,390


Personnel/Administrative      26.06        $1,400,727
Museum/Historic Sites         24.84         1,335,226
Library/Archives              17.29           929,725
Historic Preservation         10.85           583,352
Conservation                   8.79           472,769
Archeology                     7.55           406,008
Research & Publications        4.62           248,583

Total Expenditures                         $5,376,390

* In addition to the figure above the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation provided direct support in the amount of $38,890.


Respectfully Submitted,

Tony A. Schmitz
Deputy Director for Operations





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