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Nebraska State Historical Society Annual Report
2001 - 2002

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

This is a time of challenge, and of opportunity, for your Nebraska State Historical Society. As I write this, the governor is preparing to call the Legislature into special session for another round of budget cuts. Your society had already lost 7 percent of its budgeted state funding and 9 percent of its staffing in the past year. Even before the late-summer special session of 2002, the Society was looking at operating in 2002-03 with fewer general fund dollars than were available in 2001-02. More reductions were expected and the outlook for the next biennium was no better.

The State Historical Society is already a lean and efficient state agency. Seventeen years ago the Society had 135 employees. In July 2002 it had 77 full time and 5.8 permanent part-time employees. With 61 percent of the staff it had in 1984, the Society is operating two major programs it did not have then: The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha and the Chimney Rock Visitor Center near Bayard. In short, if there is a "runaway spending" problem in state government as some critics allege, the Nebraska State Historical Society has not been a participant. The challenge is to continue providing the programs mandated by state law as costs increase and state funding decreases. The support of volunteers, donors, and members will be even more important than ever before.

There are also opportunities. In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, it seems to me there is an increased appreciation for history in general. The bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark voyage beginning in 2003 has already brought a new focus on Western history. In 2003 we also mark the 125th anniversary of the Nebraska State Historical Society. The Society is engaged in a two-year "Public Dimension Assessment," a review of all the ways we interact with our audiences, including marketing, public relations, and public programs. The Society and the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation are working together in a combined membership committee to explore new ways to involve Nebraskans in the work of their Historical Society The associate directors and program managers are working with their staffs on new approaches to reach non-members, as well as members, through a variety of outreach efforts and the Society's journal, Nebraska History.

Larry Sommer marked his tenth anniversary as director of the Society in 2002. It has been a decade marked by resolution of many long-standing problems, the initiation of major new programs, and professional staff development that marks Nebraska as a national leader. Much that has been accomplished and much that will enable the Society to continue to move forward in troubled times is owed to James Hewitt, president, Jac Spahn, executive director, and the staff and members of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

In my own community, I have been impressed recently with the importance of saving a record of the present as well as of he past. The present soon becomes the past, and unless the materials for telling its stories are preserved, the stories are soon lost. When the world shakes and tragedy strikes, it is enormously helpful to know how a town or a state or a nation dealt with crisis in the past. The lessons our heroes and villains can teach us are always relevant to our present and our future. They are not available unless there is something in place to preserve them.

It has been an honor to serve with the members of this board and to be associated with the dedicated and talented professionals in the Society and the Foundation.

Keith Blackledge


From the Director

This report highlights the activities and accomplishments of the Nebraska State Historical Society during the past year. As you read it please feel free to call or write if you have questions or need additional information about the Society.

As President Blackledge noted in his message, these are challenging times for the state of Nebraska and for the Society. State budget cuts have resulted in significant staff reductions, shortened hours at Society facilities and curtailment of services. In addition, the Society is trying to deal with major deferred maintenance and building renovation needs at both its headquarters building and the Museum of Nebraska History. At both facilities the mechanical, electrical, and life safety systems are obsolete and do not meet code requirements. The recent catastrophic failure of the air-conditioning system at the Museum of Nebraska History underscores the need to proceed with these renovations as soon as state funding is available.

The Board of Trustees, staff, and volunteers all work long and hard on the Society's behalf. The NSHS staff is among the very best in the business. My sincere personal thanks to the NSHS trustees and to each and every staff member and volunteer for all their good work on behalf of the Society and all Nebraskans.

Every year the Society receives substantial support from the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. First established in 1942, the NSHS Foundation was one of the very first state historical society foundations in the United States. The NSHS Foundation supports a wide variety of special projects and activities ranging from equipment purchases, publications, internships, and National History Day travel scholarships, to acquisitions for Society collections and research fellowships for visiting scholars. The foundation also played a key role in raising matching funds for the reconstruction of the 1874 cavalry barracks at Fort Robinson. This building project is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2003. The Society appreciates the important assistance it receives every year from the NSHS Foundation.

During the past year your Society published several new books, opened a major new permanent exhibit, Building the State, at the Museum of Nebraska History, sponsored the fourth Fort Robinson history conference, and was a co-sponsor of a national conference on preserving America's historic roads that was held in Omaha.

I also want to thank NSHS trustees Dr. Sara Brandes Crook of Peru, Jim McKee of Lincoln, and Dr. Dick Loosbrock of Chadron for their service to the Society. They are not eligible for reelection to the Society board. Their interest, leadership, and good counsel will be missed.

To close on a personal note, the last ten years have gone by incredibly fast. It has been a delightful challenge to work with the NSHS Board of Trustees, the NSHS Foundation and our wonderful Society staff in the development of such state-of-the-art facilities as the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center (which includes the Society's advanced digital imaging laboratory), the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor Center at Chimney Rock, the K-Street Records Center, and the Lincoln Children's Museum building development that includes space for the NSHS archeology division and the state historic preservation office. Despite the recent state budget cuts I look forward to the continuing challenge of finding more and better ways of serving our patrons and constituents in the twenty-first century. At 125 your society is being responsive and responsible in fulfilling its mission and continuing the programmatic excellence for which it has always been known.

Lawrence J. Sommer
Director and State Historic Preservation Officer

Nebraska State Historical Society Awards

The Nebraska State Historical Society presented several awards recognizing achievements in various categories at its 2001 annual meeting in North Platte, November 3. The Robert W. Furnas Award for significant contributions to the Society went to the Friedlander Foundation of Omaha, which made a generous donation to purchase books for the library at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center. The Omaha Field Club Homeowners' League received the Nebraska Preservation Award for its efforts to promote and protect their turn-of-the-twentieth-century neighborhood, and for sponsoring its listing as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places.

Mark Smith of Columbia, Missouri, a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, received the James L. Sellers Memorial Award for the outstanding article published in the previous year's volume of Nebraska History. His article, "Karl Stefan, WJAG, and the Congressional Campaign of 1934," appeared in the summer 2000 issue. Judges from the history department at Wayne State College chose the winning article. The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation provides a cash prize and plaque to accompany the award.

The Addison E. Sheldon Award for significant achievements in the preservation of Nebraska history went to Charles E. Trimble of Omaha. Trimble, a former Society president and member of the board of trustees, was recognized for his advocacy of Native American rights and his efforts to bring Native and non-native peoples together to find common ground.

The Society also presents awards at a special celebration in May to recognize outstanding student projects in the annual History Day: Nebraska contest. For 2002 the junior division award went to Amanda Crook and Ashley Lambrecht of the Nebraska City Middle School for their junior group performance, "The First All-Woman Gubernatorial Election: Kay Orr vs. Helen Boosalis." The girls' teacher is Susan Quinn. The Society's senior division award was presented to Megan Berg, representing the science focus program of the Lincoln Public Schools. Megan's senior individual documentary was entitled, "League of Women Voters: Reformers of America." Her teacher is Jim Barstow.

In addition to these award winners, state winners in the various History Day
categories went on to compete in the National History Day contest in Maryland in June. Tabitha Lux of Glen School, District 2, Crawford, Nebraska, received second place in the junior individual documentary category at the National History Day contest for her documentary, "The REA: Revolutionizing Electrical Access." This is the second year that a student from Glen School, taught by Moni Hourt, has won a National History Day award.

Administration Division

"The mission of the Nebraska State Historical Society is to safeguard and interpret Nebraska's past and make it accessible in ways that enrich present and future generations."

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 Nebraska State Historical 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 public.

The Society's library contains approximately 80,000 volumes and includes books, periodicals, newspapers, state publications, and more than 3,000 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 350,000 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, 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 67,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to visit the 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 publication of books, archeological reports, and interpretive booklets about the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains. The division provides editorial services to other Society divisions, compiles the "Nebraska Timeline" column provided weekly to Nebraska newspapers through the Nebraska Press Association, and helps organize special programs and conferences. The division also administers the Society's research grant program.


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.

The State Historic Preservation Office is dedicated to sound policy for historic preservation in Nebraska. In 1995 a two-year task force on historic preservation presented findings and recommendations to the Nebraska State Legislature. Toward establishing policy for historic preservation in Nebraska, the State Historic Preservation Office participates in legislative studies, statewide planning processes, and interagency cooperation.


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 evaluates 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 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."

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, training for residents of the region, and the specialized conservation treatment of collection materials.


Conservation Division

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation

The diverse and innovative activities summarized in the preceding pages make it clear that the Nebraska State Historical Society continues to effectively pursue its mission of safeguarding and interpreting Nebraska's past. But collecting and preserving the state's history fulfills only part of the Society's mission; equally important is making that rich, diverse history accessible to the thousands of Nebraskans and out-of-state visitors who visit the Society's museums and historic sites, read its publications, and browse its World Wide Web site each year. And it is private support, channeled through the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, that makes it possible for the Society to go beyond minimum expectations and share the unique aspects of Nebraska's remarkable heritage with the widest possible audience.

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, incorporated in 1942, works to secure private gifts that will support the short- and long-term goals of the Historical Society. These gifts-the private side of this public-private partnership-are vital for funding new initiatives to protect, interpret, and share the stories of Nebraska.

The Foundation is pleased to recognize and thank the donors who generously provided support during the 2001­02 fiscal year. We are gratified to have earned the support of so many Nebraskans (public and private organizations and individuals) who share with us a passion for preserving Nebraska history. Their gifts have helped the Historical Society launch new programs, perpetuate successful ones, and provide long-term, dependable support for the organization. Thank you.

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation

Financial Report

Financial Report, Nebraska State Historical Society
Fiscal Year 2001-2002 Operations
(Based on preliminary year-end information. Excludes fiscal year accruals.)


Revenues                         %     Dollar Amounts

State Appropriations          66.83        $4,189,511
NSHS Foundation Support        1.69           106,085*
Earned Income                 17.50         1,096,860
Federal Grants/Contracts      13.46           843,601
Donations/Grants/Spec. Events   .52            32,741

Total Revenues                             $6,268,798


Museum/Historic Sites         24.21        $1,517,625
Administrative Services       23.18         1,453,643
Library/Archives              16.56         1,038,007
Historic Preservation         13.98           876,374
Archeology                     9.45           592,413
Conservation                   7.23           452,936
Research & Publications        5.39           337,800

Total Expenditures                         $6,268,798

* In addition to the figure above the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation provided direct support in the amount of $115,256.


Respectfully Submitted,

Tony A. Schmitz
Deputy Director for Operations





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