NSHS Home  |  Research & Publications  |  Publications

Historical Newsletter

May / June 2004

Society's Work on Disaster Planning Pays Off

For several years the Society has housed the State Archives, the records generated by the various levels of government, in a former electrical plant. This building was renovated and adapted by the city of Lincoln to serve as a record storage facility.

On Friday, March 5, 2004, a worker servicing the fire sprinkler system on the top floor of the building accidentally broke a sprinkler head, releasing a torrent of water. The deluge lasted about twenty minutes and intermittent dripping continued for another hour or two. 

The water soon worked its way down to other floors, including the one that the Society leases. The water ran over an area containing about four hundred cubic feet of records and a very small area in the security microfilm vault. Society staff responded by quickly covering all areas in plastic where water was entering from overhead. Soon the city of Lincoln had a professional cleaning crew on site.

"We have worked on disaster planning for many years," said Society staff member Ann Billesbach, "but I never really thought I would see a disaster like this in my career." But that work paid off.

While Society staff covered records and moved them out of harm's way, the cleaning crew immediately cleared floors of fallen ceiling tiles and other debris and began mopping the area, removing excess water. The crew also brought in high-powered dehumidifiers and fans so the records could begin drying. 

These efforts were supplemented the next day when a professional emergency salvage company, BMS-Cat of Fort Worth, Texas, came in to oversee salvage efforts for both the records and the building. BMS added additional equipment to the drying effort, and by the end of a crucial seventy-two-hour window, the Society's records were dry and in no need of additional care. Only a very few records from other agencies were taken to the BMS facility in Fort Worth for additional treatment.

Tara Kennedy, the Society's paper conservator from the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, immediately came down from Omaha to help deal with the crisis. "Because our staff responded quickly and effectively," Kennedy said, "very few records will require any attention at all."

"This disaster was not something we could have predicted or prevented," said Society Director Lawrence Sommer, "but quick reaction and teamwork on the part of our staff prevented any loss." While the records are the responsibility of the Library / Archives Division, which took the leadership role in responding to the event, staff from the other divisions pitched in as needed. We are pleased to report that this potential calamity was averted and the irreplaceable records of Nebraska's past are safe and sound.

Map Evaluation and Preservation Workshop Held

On March 20 paper conservator Tara Kennedy from the Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center and print and map authority Donald Cresswell of the Philadelphia Print Shop invited area collectors to bring in their paper objects to learn what they had and how to take proper care of them.

Among the collectors who attended was Foster Woodruff, who collected government war propaganda posters during World War II. Cresswell, who makes regular appearances on the popular television program Antiques Roadshow, told Woodruff that his posters would appeal to collectors, and would have a place in an appropriate museum.

Tara Kennedy gave Mr. Woodruff advice on how to store his posters and provided him with catalogs from which he could order storage materials. Mr. Woodruff was concerned that the posters were folded and asked if he should have them flattened. Cresswell pointed out that if they had been World War I posters, the folds would adversely affect their value, but during World War II posters were shipped folded, and therefore that is simply the way they arrived. Kennedy said that the folds were not a serious problem and that proper storage was a greater concern.

During the day Cresswell and Kennedy examined dozens of paper objects and entertained and informed all who attended.



Patchwork Lives Now on Exhibit

NSHS members and their families were guests at the April 2 opening of Patchwork Lives, an exhibit of quilts at the Museum of Nebraska History from the collections of the Society and the International Quilt Study Center. The IQSC was host for the event to celebrate the first in a series of four rotating exhibits that will be displayed over the next two years. Special activities for children allowed them to design their own quilt blocks and then try to find historic quilts that most closely resembled their creations. Fifteen quilts will be exhibited for six months, then replaced with others from both institutions' collections. Nineteenth-century quilts predominate, but quilts dating to 1920 are included, along with historic photographs and sewing paraphernalia. For more information or to arrange a group tour of the exhibit, call 402-471-4757.

Documentary on Solomon Butcher Premieres

On February 27, 2004, more than three hundred enthusiastic people gathered in the middle school auditorium in Broken Bow to preview "Solomon Butcher: Frontier Photographer," a documentary exploring the life and remarkable sod house images of one of America's most fascinating photographers. This documentary was then aired on March 21 and 24 to a statewide audience on the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications network. Solomon Butcher's well-known photographs of settlement in Custer, Dawson, Buffalo, and Cherry counties are national icons. They are the major visual record of an epoch in which Euro-Americans flooded into the American West.

The documentary focused not only on the amazing collection of nearly 3,500 glass plate negatives that Butcher made between 1886 and 1912, but also on the life these photographs have had since coming to the Society. In the late 1950s the photographs were the centerpiece of a benchmark production by NET that would foreshadow the documentary style that Ken Burns would make popular in the 1990s.

With the development of the Digital Imaging Laboratory at the Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center these important photographs became accessible worldwide over the internet. Today they may be found on the NebraskaStudies website and on the prestigious American Memory site hosted by the Library of Congress.

"Solomon Butcher: Frontier Photographer" is itself a benchmark. Though the Nebraska State Historical Society and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications have worked together for fifty years, "Solomon Butcher: Frontier Photographer" marked the first time that NET and the Historical Society worked as coproducers, bringing together in a powerful way the important resources of both agencies. It is only the second production by NET using their new high definition television technology. Coupled with the high quality scans produced at the Ford Center, HDTV is able to reproduce both the detail and the beauty of these photographs remarkably.

"Solomon Butcher: Frontier Photographer" will soon be available on either DVD or VHS video tape. Contact the museum store at 402-471-3447 or kriggs@mail.state.ne.us for more information.

2004 Research Grants Awarded

The Nebraska State Historical Society has awarded two $1,000 research grants to support the work of scholars conducting research on the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains. Recipients of the competitive awards for the 2004 grant cycle are Professor Gordon Scholz of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Elaine M. Nelson of Lincoln.

Professor Scholz's proposal is entitled "Early Views and Viewmakers of Towns in Nebraska," and focuses on late nineteenth century birds-eye view paintings of fifty-three Nebraska towns known to have been produced. Like aerial photography, but before its time, the birds-eye views were used by boosters to promote settlement and economic development, and to instill pride among residents in the local community. Today these views offer accurate glimpses into the layout and character of whole towns at an early time in their history.

Scholz, professor and chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will survey and catalogue the Nebraska views, several of which are in the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society. He will study these images for their value in illuminating urban and architectural history, including land use, patterns and densities of development, and urban and architectural form. His project will also study the images as artifacts, with research into the artists who created the paintings, drawing and rendering techniques, and advertising and promotional characteristics.

Elaine M. Nelson's proposal is centered on Eunice Woodhall Stabler's experiences as an Omaha Indian woman from 1885 to 1963. Nelson's project follows Stabler from her roots in the Omaha Reservation to the Genoa Indian Industrial School, and then through three more academic degrees to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Winnebago and Omaha Indian agencies. Stabler's distinguished career also included associations with the Republican State Committee of Nebraska, church organizations in Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, among other political activities.

Nelson is a graduate student in history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her work will include research in the Stabler papers and other records held at the Nebraska State Historical Society, as well as interviews with descendants. Her research will be equally focused on Stabler's continuing identification and association with her native culture, which allowed her to attain and maintain solid footing in two worlds. Her considerable accomplishments in both of these worlds will be a major contribution to our knowledge of native history in Nebraska.

Research by both scholars will be conducted over the next year. Funds for the grants are provided by the Gladys Marie Lux Nebraska History Education Endowment Fund and the Tom and Marilyn Allan Fund, both administered by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

photo of members at Furnas house Members-Only Bus Trip May Become an Annual Event!

The first members-only bus trip, which took place on April 15, was very successful. Forty-six members went on this history-filled adventure to Nebraska City and Brownville. Four people joined the Nebraska State Historical Society so they could go with us on our journey.

In Nebraska City the group toured Arbor Lodge, the historic mansion of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day, followed by lunch at the Lied Lodge and Conference Center restaurant. In the historic village of Brownville we toured the Governor Robert W. Furnas house, built in 1868, and walked through the Furnas Arboretum, where we viewed many lovely varieties of trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers. At the Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard and Winery we toured the hundred-year-old renovated barn, a brick wine cave built in 1866, and saw the production facilities where the wine is made. Everyone got to try some samples of the delicious wine.

We hope to have a second members-only bus trip next spring. Please let us know if you have any suggestions on interesting, historical places in Nebraska that can be visited in a day. Please call Karen Heath, membership coordinator, at 435-3535, toll free at 888-515-3535, or e-mail her at nshsfmember@alltel.net with any suggestions. Maybe those of you who weren't able to go on this year's trip can go with us next year.


NSHS Digital Imaging Efforts Featured in New Book

Digital Imaging: A Practical Approach, by former NSHS curator of photographs and digital imaging head Jill Koelling, has been published by AltaMira Press and the American Association for State and Local History. The 112-page guide begins with a glossary to begin demystifying digital imaging from the outset. Images and experiences from the NSHS serve as examples throughout. This useful resource is available through the NSHS museum store. Contact Kris Riggs at 402-471-3447 or kriggs@mail.state.ne.us for more information.



Norris Site to Host Spinning, Weaving, and Needlework Display

The Senator George Norris State Historic Site, 706 Norris Avenue, McCook, will host a Spinning, Weaving, and Needlework display during the month of June. Items done by Norris family women will be on exhibit, as well as examples of crochet, quilting, needlepoint, tatting, and weaving from McCook area artisans. Hours at the site are Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00-4:30. Charge for non-NSHS members is $3 and $1 for unaccompanied children. For further information: 308-345-8484 or norris@mccooknet.com.

Cox Cable to Air Brown Bag Lectures in Omaha

NSHS Brown Bag Lectures will begin to air in the Omaha area soon, both on public access Channel 23 and Cox's new digital Channel 802. Special thanks to NSHS volunteer Bob Ridder, who helped make this important broader distribution a reality. The lectures will air on Cox Channel 23 on the first Sunday of the month, followed by five days of broadcast on Digital 802. Check local listings for specific information.


By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Allgor-Atkinson Families: The Story of David and Ruth (Atkinson) Allgor, Their Ancestors and Descendants, compiled by Mary A. Kramer. (Families in Boyd County.)

[Anton Ondracek History, compiled by Janice Hellerich]. (Czech American family in Lancaster and Saunders counties.)

Harlan County, Nebraska, Marriages, 1873-1936, compiled by Ben Boell (Vol. 1), [20-].

I Remember: Family Stories From Hamilton County, Nebraska, by the Family Heritage Institute of Hamilton County, Nebraska, 1999-Index of Landowners for the 1900 Plat Book of Jefferson County, Nebraska and Index of Landowners for the 1900 Plat Book of Thayer County, Nebraska (two separate titles) [compiled and indexed by Brenda Busing], 1998.

My Life As It Was: The Nebraska Memories, Dodge and Stanton Counties 1881-1909, of Barbara Luxa Hamsa (September 21, 1879-August 17, 1952). [Compiled by Dolores Kokes Speidel] (Czech American [Luxa] in Dodge and Stanton counties.)

L'chaim: A Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research, by Zoe Henry [1997].

The Lodes Family of Colfax County, Nebraska: Volume II, [compiled] by Russell G. Lodes. (Family in Colfax County.)

Nuckolls Funeral Home Records, 1934-1942, Fairbury, Nebraska, by the Jefferson County Genealogical Society, 2002.

Thomas Whitman and His Descendants, [compiled by J. K. Cook]. (Family in Dodge, Valley, Box Butte and Gage counties.)

The library is requesting donations to purchase the following title: Ancestors in German Archives-A Guide to Family History Sources by Raymond S. Wright III et al. This title has "information about more than 2,000 national, state, and local repositories in Germany" published in 2004. The total price for this book is $89. If you would like to donate funds for its purchase or purchase it for the library, contact Cindy S. Drake, 402-471-4786 or nshs05@www.nebraskahistory.org.


May 20: Brown Bag Lecture, "Lincoln's History Mystery," by Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee. History Mystery clues and sites revealed. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

May 31: Old-fashioned Memorial Day, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha. Band, color guard, address, all focusing on the Snowdens and other pioneer leaders of Omaha in the late 1850s. For information contact Prospect Hill Cemetery, Thirty-second and Parker streets, Omaha, NE 68155; tel: 402-556-6057.

June 17: Brown Bag Lecture, presentation on Engineer Cantonment by Rob Bozell, NSHS associate director, Archeology Division. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

July 11: 150th Anniversary Celebration, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Omaha. Guided tours, beginning at 2 p.m.; costumed reenactors at sites throughout the cemetery. For information contact Prospect Hill Cemetery as above.

Peru State College Course and Tour Feature Study of Kansas-Nebraska Act on Its 150th Anniversary

The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the turbulent drives to statehood in these two territories are the focus of a program offered by Peru State College this summer. Titled "The Trails and Tales Tour and Institute V: The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Winding Road to Statehood," this interdisciplinary history and literature program is primarily designed to assist elementary and secondary teachers (although others may attend) to better understand the most important themes of this era. These include, but are not limited to, the political compromises that led to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the outcomes of fanatical abolitionism, and the Underground Railroad's battle against the Fugitive Slave Law. Participants, who may earn either six or three graduate credit hours, will spend a week on the PSC campus studying the history and literature of this period and will then take a six-day tour of relevant sites in eastern Nebraska and eastern and central Kansas. Stipends from the Nebraska Humanities Council are available to help teachers defray the tour cost, while partial tuition remission is also available. The program runs from June 14 to 26, 2004. For information or to register contact one of the following individuals: Dr. Sara Crook-402-872-2279 / scrook@oakmail.peru.edu -or Dr. Dan Holtz-402-872-2267 / dholtz@oakmail.peru.edu. Participants may also take only the tour, if space is available.

Indian on horseback logo


Fandex Family Field Guides
featuring American Indians, trees, and wildflowers. Each guide includes fifty individually die-cut cards providing knowledge at your fingertips for everyone in the family.

Birding Nebraska: Where to find Hundreds of Species on the Great Plains, by Jon Farrar, NEBRASKAland Magazine.

Plush Audubon Bird - Western Meadowlark (five inches) with real birdcall!

Lake McConaughy: A Geographic Portrait,
by Robert Richter.

America's Prairies and Grasslands: Guide to Plants and Animals, by Marianne D. Wallace. For ages 8-13.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, written and illustrated by Sharon Lovejoy. Includes twelve easy-to-implement projects for theme gardens that parents and kids can grow together. For ages 4-10.


MUSEUM of NEBRASKA HISTORY, 15th & "P" Streets, 402-471-3447
10:00 - 4:30, Monday - Friday
1:00 - 4:00, Saturday and Sunday
Museum Store Catalog online


March / April Issue

Back Issues



NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top

Last updated 16 April 2004

For questions or comments on the website itself, email
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2009 All Rights Reserved