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July/August 2003

Photograph taken by Bostock Portrait Studio
bell tower

The Bostock Studio
Who, What, Where, When?

A collection of photographs taken in the Palisade, Nebraska, area in the first part of the twentieth century has been the focus of a traveling exhibit entitled Who, What, Where, When.

In the fall of 2001, a Palisade family donated more than two thousand glass plate negatives taken by William L. Bostock of Palisade to the Nebraska State Historical Society through the Foundation. The images depict life in southwest Nebraska between 1900 and 1930. This collection is of particular interest because it tells the story of life in southwestern Nebraska during the early decades of the twentieth century. This area of the state was not well represented in the Society collections prior to this generous donation.

Frank and Betty Potthoff of Palisade had cared for the glass plate negatives for more than thirty years when they agreed to donate them to the Nebraska State Historical Society through the Foundation. Their gift was important to help complete the historical record from the area, but it's also the gift that keeps on giving. Because of its digital imaging capabilities, the State Historical Society can make these images accessible to Nebraskans and people around the world. Thanks to private support secured by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, the Society has the equipment needed to scan the images and share them on the NSHS website. Digital scans also allow printing of multiple copies of the photographs without stress to the original negatives.

But the photographs will mean more if the Society knows more about them. Dr. William Karrer, a Palisade native now residing in Omaha and a member of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation board of directors, is chairing the traveling exhibit with two goals in mind, "To share the Palisade Photo Collection with the widest audience possible, and to ask that audience to help us identify subjects and locations within the photographs. We know who took the photos, but there were no labels with the negatives and to be of the best use to describe the area and record its history, we would like to know more about the who, what, where, and when of the photos."

The exhibit was unveiled during Palisade Pioneer Days, June 13-15, and has traveled to several areas in southwest Nebraska in the hopes that people from the area might be able to identify people, places, or events in the photographs. "We are encouraging those viewing the exhibit to help us identify the locations and persons in the photographs, adding even more depth to the images' contribution documenting the settlement of the area," said Karrer.

men The exhibit features images that are a spectacular documentary of settlement and growth of communities in the southwest area of Nebraska. The collection is a fascinating mix of portraiture, history, and art. A copy of the complete collection is housed at the Hitchcock County Historical Society.

The exhibit has also been mounted on the Society's website, where you can view the photos and e-mail the Society with any information you might have. Go to the Nebraska State Historical Society website at www.nebraskahistory.org and click on the "what's new" button and look for the Who, What, Where, When exhibit.

The traveling exhibit was funded through the generous support of donors to the NSHS Foundation.

For more information about the exhibit and its tour sites, or to request time on the exhibit's tour, please contact the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, 888-515-3535.

Lincoln's History Mystery:
The Foundation's First Ever Special Event is
UNCOVERED as Big Success

For years Andy Strotman of Lincoln had been saying his colleagues didn't have a clue, and here, at last, was an opportunity for them to get one! Thanks to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, Andy's colleagues at Cline-Williams, a Lincoln law firm, had the chance to get a clue--actually, numerous clues--and to use them to solve Lincoln's first "History Mystery."

The Cline-Williams team and twenty-six other formerly clueless cliques spent a lovely May 9 evening using historic hints to track down notable, and even notorious, downtown Lincoln landmarks. Starting at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History at Fifteenth and P, over 130 culture sleuths sprang on the streets of Lincoln ferreting out the solutions to such riddles as: "With that feller John D's generosity, came a home for good drama and pure comedy. An Omaha paper did throw such a fit, that first off campus this building did sit. Its neighbor is 'scrappy' and there's new stars a' dawning, so what is the name that appears on the awning?" (The answer is Temple Theatre.) All the clues led to places within a sixteen-block area in downtown Lincoln.

The 2003 winning team: The Slimy Ones
the Slimy Ones

After an hour and a half of investigating, the gumshoes converged on the Museum of Nebraska History again to submit their findings to a panel of judges and to enjoy a cold cocktail and snacks. The jury returned with a three-way tie. After a sudden death lightning round of Nebraska trivia, a team made up entirely of lawyers named The Slimy Ones took top honors. Team spokesperson Neal Stenberg attributed their victory to strategy. "At the beginning we first sat down and examined the questions," Stenberg said, "then with a plan in hand we hit the streets."

That strategy proved important. You didn't dare get stalled in one of downtown Lincoln's many night spots and expect to solve all the clues, though a goodly number of the participants did indulge in a dust cutter before getting back on trail.

The sleuthing begins!
sleuthing begins

The rules were simple. You had to do your digging on foot. Your team had to stay together. And most important, you had to have fun. Everyone lived up to that rule. According to Deb Yeutter with Tricky Dick and the History Chicks, "I had a great time. We had a fun night wandering around downtown trying to figure out the clues, and the party afterward was great. We would love to do this again."

When the dust settled, winners and losers alike went home exhausted but ready to go again. Gene Crump, NSHS Foundation trustee and member of the event committee, said, "We couldn't be happier. This event was a great way to put history and fun together in the same sentence and re-introduce people to the museum. The support from the Lincoln business community and the enthusiastic turnout was just great. People really had fun, we already have teams saying 'next year . . . ' and we're looking forward to it again next year."

Ultimately, though, Lincoln's History Mystery was not about winning and losing. Proceeds from the event will support an important exhibition that the Nebraska State Historical Society will mount in September as part of its 125th anniversary celebration. Recovered Views: African American Portraits, 1912-1925, will be the first public showing of a collection of amazing photographs taken by an African American photographer in Lincoln during the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation supports the projects and programs of the Nebraska State Historical Society designed to increase the understanding, appreciation, and accessibility of Nebraska's history. Printing, publicity, and refreshments for the event were donated by more than a dozen generous Lincoln businesses.

It was appropriate that the first History Mystery support this project, because mystery surrounds the photographs. Who was the photographer? What are the stories behind the beautiful pictures? What was Lincoln like at that time? Lincoln's city historian, Ed Zimmer, has been digging into those questions for some time and is busy with his own sleuthing.

Beginning in February of 2004 this exhibition will leave Lincoln to begin a four-year national tour. Supported with funds raised by History Mystery team entry fees, the exhibition will focus a national spotlight on Nebraska's capital city. That's a pretty good return on a night's sleuthing.

The event's committee considered the evening a successful pilot event and plans to roll out History Mystery events in other communities across the state. If you are interested in discovering how a History Mystery might work in your community, contact Jac Spahn at the NSHS Foundation office, 888-515-3535.

2003-04 Foundation Board of Directors

Allison D. Petersen, Walton, President
Steven E. Guenzel, Lincoln, Executive Vice President
Jack D. Campbell, Lincoln, Vice President
C. John Guenzel, Lincoln, Treasurer
Joanne F. Shephard, Valentine, Secretary
Martha Greer, Lincoln
Dr. James W. Hewitt, Lincoln
Dr. William F. Karrer, Omaha
Dr. Frederick C. Luebke, Lincoln
Carol Maddux, Wauneta
Dr. Martin A. Massengale, Lincoln
John D. Massey, Scottsbluff
George H. Moyer, Jr., Madison
James F. Nissen, Lincoln
Robert D. Northrop, Lincoln
Cynthia Olson, Lisco
Amy Scott-Willer, Omaha
John W. Webster, Omaha
S. N. "Bud" Wolbach, Grand Island
Dr. John Wunder, Lincoln

Lawrence J. Sommer, Lincoln, NSHS Director, Ex-officio
Jack Preston, Lyman, NSHS President, Ex-officio
Patricia Phillips, Omaha, NSHS Treasurer, Ex-officio

Contact Information:

Jackie Spahn, Executive Director
Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
215 Centennial Mall South, #408
Lincoln, NE 68508-1813

Ph: 402-435-3535
Toll Free: 888-515-3535
Fax: 402-435-3986

May/June 2003 Issue

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Last updated 13 June 2003

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