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Nebraska State Historical Society Annual Report
1996 - 1997

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 & Publications | State Historic Preservation Office | Archeology | Conservation | Financial Report

President's Message

When Governor Nelson appointed me to the Board of Trustees in 1991, he was undoubtedly influenced by the ongoing turmoil in the Society over the disposition of Pawnee ancestral skeletal remains that were in the Society's possession. Although he did not express any specific expectations of me other than good service, I felt that, being a Native American, I had a responsibility to work toward resolution of the conflict with the Pawnees with justice to them in their religious beliefs and with honor to the Society. I must admit to also feeling a great deal of apprehension on how I would be perceived and accepted by board members and by Society staff.

What I found in the Society, in both the board and staff, were good people wanting to do the right thing. The conflict with the Pawnees was a classic struggle of scientific and historical research interests versus deeply held religious beliefs. The matter was resolved, albeit after much acrimony, and the Society suffered considerably in public relations and political repercussions. My role then, I felt, should be in promoting understanding and in healing-both internally in the organization and externally in the Society's relations with tribes and the general public.

Nebraska folklorist Roger Welsch, who resigned in protest from the Society board during the conflict, recently remarked that he had thought that healing between the Society and the tribes would not occur in his lifetime, but that he was pleasantly surprised to see it taking place before his eyes. Although I claim some part in that process, great credit must go to the entire Society board and especially to the Honorable Norman Krivosha, past chief justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, who represented the board in working out an equitable and honorable settlement with the Pawnees. And, of course, much credit must go to the staff, who worked hard through a very difficult crisis to turn the organization in a new positive direction toward a great future.

Not out of atonement, but in a new spirit of awareness, great work is being done to celebrate the diversity in cultures that make up Nebraska's history. The past six years have been highlighted by programming that included sponsorship with the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and the Lincoln Indian Center of an American Indian market day and art shows from the fine collection of the Red Cloud Indian Heritage Center. In 1996 the Society joined with the Mexican American Commission in putting together Un Tesoro de Nebraska, a celebration in art, photographs, artifacts, and oral presentations of the state's Latino history and culture. A major exhibit, Buffalo Soldiers West, along with a "Buffalo Soldiers Weekend," interpreted the role of African Americans in the frontier army, including service in Nebraska at Forts Robinson and Niobrara.

Now it is time for the Society to move ahead. Under the visionary leadership of Lawrence Sommer, ambitious but carefully constructed plans for growth in the immediate and long range future have been developed. Based on solid needs assessment, well-defined goals, and feasibility analyses of public and private funding potential, a realistic development program for Society projects across the state will begin over the coming year.

I feel great confidence that the Society leadership will carry the organization through the challenging times ahead. As I leave the Board of Trustees, I express deep gratitude and appreciation to those with whom I had the pleasure of serving, to Lawrence Sommer for his excellent leadership, and to the very capable staff for their trust, courtesy, and friendship.

Charles E. Trimble


From the Director

As in almost every other field of endeavor the one thing that seems to be a constant in the history business these days is change. New opportunities, new challenges, partnerships, doing more with less, and "thinking outside the box" to develop creative solutions to solving problems define much of how we approach the business of preserving Nebraska's heritage at the end of the twentieth century. During the past few years the Society has spent considerable time and effort developing a new strategic plan that includes facility master plans for every Society property. During the next several years the Society will spend considerable time and effort trying to implement these plans. Refocusing the Society mission to more effectively meet the fiscal, human resource, and programmatic challenges of the next century and undertaking much-needed renovation of aging Society facilities are key elements of these plans. During the past year the Society began studying the feasibility of conducting its first-ever, large-scale capital campaign. At the same time we began the process of trying to get certain Society building renovation projects included in the state's capital budget and building program.

We are already seeing how rapidly-developing technology is affecting and changing the ways in which we interact with our constituents and conduct much of our business. No, we will never stop collecting the physical evidence of Nebraska history and, no, we will never remove the books or photographs from our library/archives collections, but such new technology as digital imaging and interactive, online access to collections and research information will play increasingly more important roles in determining how we collect, preserve, and disseminate information about Nebraska history.

Every year I like to publicly thank the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees and the Society staff and volunteers for making my job so enjoyable and so easy. Without their strong support and consistently excellent work, we probably would not be able to accomplish half of what we do. We have a wonderful team, and I sincerely appreciate their efforts on behalf of the Society.

I also wish to thank Society Trustees Michael Schuyler of Kearney and Charles Trimble of Omaha and acknowledge their work. Their second terms on the Society board are ending, and they are not eligible for reelection. Schuyler's and Trimble's terms have been marked by both difficult and exciting times for the Society. Their commitment to the Society, their leadership, and their good counsel will be missed.

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

Lawrence J. Sommer


Nebraska State Historical Society Awards

Each year the Society recognizes achievements in various categories relating to the preservation or interpretation of Nebraska history. Four awards were presented at the 1996 annual meeting and history conference.

The James L. Sellers Memorial Award for the article judged best in the 1995 volume of Nebraska History went to Beverly M. Russell of Chappell, Nebraska. Her article, "World War II Boomtown: Hastings and the Naval Ammunition Depot," appeared in the fall 1995 issue. The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation provides a prize of $400 to the award-winning author.

The Nebraska Preservation Award was presented to two organizations in 1996. One award went to the Lincoln Housing Authority for the preservation of a World War II-era chapel, melding its continued use into that organization's primary mission of improving the lives of tenants, strengthening the stability of neighborhoods, and responding to diverse cultural and social needs. Under a preservation plan prepared for the chapel, the Housing Authority will support its future restoration and maintenance.

The Hall County Historical Society received a preservation award for its efforts to acquire and enhance the Murdock site. Intact trail ruts, still visible at the site, and the site's association to overland travel make it significant to regional history. In March 1996 the Hall County Historical Society began a fundraising drive to acquire the site and began plans to sponsor native prairie restoration, interpretive markers, and further research and archeological testing in cooperation with the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Thomas Creigh, Jr., of Hastings received the 1996 Robert W. Furnas Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the Nebraska State Historical Society. A former Society board member, Creigh provided funds to support publication of Nebraska Trailblazer for Nebraska fourth grade students. He recently made a substantial gift to benefit cooperative projects to be developed by the Society and the Nebraska Educational Television Network.

The Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award for significant contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history went to Dr. Frederick C. Luebke of Lincoln, Charles J. Mach professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who was cited for his research, publication, and teaching in the field of Nebraska and Great Plains history.

The Society's Award for Achievement in Nebraska History is announced at the State History Day contest and presented at the History Day celebration at the capitol. The 1997 award went to Kristina E. Haynie, a senior at Benson High School in Omaha. Her individual project was entitled, "Brownville, Nebraska: Tales of Triumph and Tragedy." Kristina used her prize money toward her trip to the National History Day competition in Washington, D.C.


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

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 and 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


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

By legislative acts of 1905 and 1969 the Nebraska State Historical Society was assigned responsibility for preservation of all public records having permanent value. The manuscripts division of the archives collects and preserves business, political, organizational, religious, and personal records of Nebraska reflecting the state's social, economic, and political development. The Society's library contains approximately 80,000 volumes including state publications and periodicals, and 3,000 maps and atlases. The division also holds more than 250,000 historical photographs. Emphasis is given to material relating to the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains.


Library/Archives Division

Museum/Historic Sites

"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 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 seven historic sites offer diverse opportunities for the public to visit Nebraska history in any part of the state. The breadth of coverage, both geographically and historically, is impressive.


Chimney Rock National Historic Site

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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 & Publications

"The mission of the Research and Publica-tions 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 Nebraska History and conducts research leading to the publication of books and historical documents. The division also provides research and editorial services to other Society divisions, including preparation of exhibit monographs, and text and illustrations for county namesake portraits. The division helps edit Central Plains Archaeology, a joint publication of the Society and the Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists. The state historical marker program is coordinated through the division and the division edits the monthly Historical Newsletter and the "Nebraska Timeline" newspaper column.


Research and Publications Division

State Historic Preservation Office

"The mission of the State Historic Preserva-tion 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


"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 primary responsibility of the division 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 3,000 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


"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 and artifact condition, assessment of conservation needs, education and training for residents of the state and region, and the specialized conservation treatment of collection materials.


Conservation Division

Financial Report

Financial Report, Nebraska State Historical Society
Fiscal Year 1996-97 Operations
(Based on preliminary year-end information, excluding fiscal year accruals.)


Revenues                         %     Dollar Amounts

State Appropriations          61.5         $3,164,289
NSHS Foundation Support       13.8            710,201
Earned Income                 14.1            725,314
Federal Grants/Contracts       9.1            468,763
Donations/Grants/Spec. Events  1.5             75,030

Total Revenues                             $5,143,597


Personnel/Administrative      24.9         $1,280,987
Museum/Historic Sites         23.9          1,230,998
Library/Archives              13.9            715,035
Historic Preservation         12.1            621,480
Conservation                  11.8            606,978
Archeology                     7.1            365,377
Research & Publications        6.3            322,742

Total Expenditures                         $5,143,597


Respectfully Submitted

Tony A. Schmitz




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