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NSHS Volunteer News

July/August 2002

 Volunteer Spotlight on Bob Lamb

photo of Bob Lamb This issue the spotlight shines on Bob Lamb. Bob began volunteering at NSHS in 1995 with the Library/Archives division. He became interested in the Society "while doing research on my wife's genealogy." He became acquainted with then-staff member Cynthia Monroe, who persuaded Bob to volunteer in the Library/Archives assisting others with their research.

After volunteering for two years in the Reference Room of the Library/Archives, Bob became involved with many different archival collections. His first project was to organize military documents relating to Nebraskans serving in the Civil War and the Spanish American War. Bob worked with military rosters, payroll, and other related military reports. Other projects include processing drawings of the early military buildings at Fort Robinson, inventorying prison records and glass plate negatives from the State Penitentiary; organizing buildings plans and permits for churches, schools, fire stations, and commercial buildings from the City of Lincoln, and assigning subject headings to interviews carried out by Work Progress Administration (WPA) workers in the 1930s. When the public records were moved to the Society's 8th and K Street facility, Bob moved with it. He then began working on organizing numerous boxes of Governor's papers. Currently he is working on a data entry project that focuses on the indexing of oaths of office, assurity bonds, and election appointments for Governors.

Bob customarily volunteers each Thursday afternoon at the K Street facility and occasionally in the Library/Archives reference room on Saturday. I asked Bob why he enjoyed volunteering at NSHS, to which he responded, "I have had a life-long interest in history ­ I'm a Civil War buff, and I enjoy western and Nebraska history." Bob commented, "I like working with the staff and having contact with history, especially when I run into information that relates to the people that began this state, like Silas Garber."

Prior to volunteering Bob spent forty years working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service, working in Albion, Schuyler, Tecumseh, and Red Cloud. His interests include genealogy, quail hunting, and golf. He is a member of the Civil War roundtable. According to Bob, "I welcome the opportunity to do something interesting, and that helps other people -- it's the satisfaction that you take home with you at the end of the day."

NSHS staff appreciates the work that Bob provides to the Society. His continued support in the archives provides invaluable aid in making the collections more useful to researchers. Thanks, Bob!

Grave of Private Benjamin Groms  Volunteer Tour Scheduled

Plans are underway for a tour scheduled for Thursday and Friday, October 10-11, to sites in southwest and south-central Nebraska. Stops include the Fort McPherson National Cemetery, the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site, the Minden Opera House, and a Civil War Monument in Sutton.

A registration form and further details about the bus trip will be mailed to volunteers at a later date. Please contact Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955 if you have questions, or would like us to add someone to our mailing list.

Grave of Pvt. Benjamin Groms, 7th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry, killed by a premature discharge while firing a cannon salute at Fort McPherson, June 20, 1865.

Nebraska State Fair

For many years the Society has been involved at the Nebraska State Fair, providing information to fair-goers visiting the Hudson Cabin and Cunningham Schoolhouse. In past years volunteers have assisted NSHS by contributing numerous hours to answer questions, as well as by selling items from the temporary museum store at the log cabin during the State Fair.

The cabin and schoolhouse will continue to be a part of the Fair in 2002, but will be managed this year by the Nebraska State Fair Office. If you would like to volunteer at the schoolhouse and cabin please contact Mindy Fulberth, Special Events Coordinator at the Nebraska State Fair at 473-4265. Thank you for your dedicated and continued service to the Nebraska State Fair.

The National Register of Historic Places in Nebraska is Focus of Program

Please join us on Wednesday, July 10, for a volunteer program at the Historic Preservation Office. The Historic Preservation Office is located on the third floor of the Lincoln Children's Museum, 1420 P Street, Suite 300, Lincoln. The program will begin at 10:30 a.m., and is entitled, the "National Register of Historic Places in Nebraska." Stacy Stupka-Burda, of the State Historic Preservation Office, a division of the Nebraska State Historical Society will present the program. A potluck lunch will follow the program.

Please join us for the program and the potluck. RSVP to Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955 regarding your attendance, or if you have any questions.

Indian on horseback logo

The Nebraska State Historical Society Museum Stores
invite you to shop with us!

Stop in or give us a call to learn more about our educational and unique merchandise
that will engage your mind and bring back memories.

Don't forget about your store discount.

New from the Museum Store

Sterling silver petroglyph jewelry. This jewelry line uses common rock art designs or symbols. Check out our new Sun pendant and earrings, the Spiral cuff bracelet, and the Water bracelet and earrings.

Commemorative reproductions of the Thomas Jefferson Peace Medal, often referred to as the "Lewis and Clark Indian Peace Medal" are now available in both silver and copper. These medallions are a limited edition and individually numbered.

Nebraska State Historical Society Museum Store
1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-3447

Museum Air Conditioning Failure

It's going to be a long, hot summer at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History in Lincoln. The Museum's air conditioning system has failed, necessitating changes in hours and programming until a new system can be installed.

Effective Monday, June 10, the museum will be open mornings only, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday through Saturday. The building will be closed on Sundays.

Summer workshops for children planned for the weeks of June 10 and June 24 will be held in air-conditioned comfort at the Nebraska State Historical Society Headquarters Building at 1500 R Street.

Two noon-hour brown bag lecture series, scheduled for the 2nd Tuesday and 3rd Thursday of each month, will be cancelled for the months of June, July, and August. The Preservation Association of Lincoln's lectures scheduled for June 11, July 9 and August 13 will not be held at the museum. The Nebraska State Historical Society's brown bag lectures scheduled for June 20, July 18 and August 15 will be rescheduled for later dates.

The Museum of Nebraska History occupies a structure built in 1967 to house the Lincoln Elks Club. Some slight improvements were made to the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning system in the early 1980s when the building was purchased by the state for use as a museum. Replacing the 35-year-old equipment had been identified as a high priority on the State Historical Society's facilities maintenance plan, but funds for many capital projects have been unavailable due to state budget shortfalls.

Emergency funding for the air conditioning replacement will be provided by the state's Task Force for Building Renewal, also known as the LB 309 or deferred maintenance task force. Because the museum houses thousands of historic artifacts, the new system will be designed to meet museum standards for temperature and humidity. In the interim, Society curators are running fans and dehumidifiers and using hygrothermographs to monitor environmental conditions.

Coping with Nebraska weather is one of the themes of the museum's new permanent exhibit, "Building the State: Nebraska, 1867-1916." By bringing in cooler morning air and working earlier in the day, staff are using strategies earlier Nebraskans employed to compensate for Nebraska's heat. Visitors are welcome at the museum during morning hours, and are encouraged to wear lightweight clothing.

For more information, contact the museum at 402/471-4754 or visit the Society's website,

"The Incomparable Opera House"

Willa Cather, in a letter published in the October 27, 1929, issue of the Omaha World-Herald, lamented the disappearance of the small town opera houses that graced hundreds of Nebraska main streets in the decades between 1880 and 1920. "When I go about among little Nebraska towns . . . the thing I miss most is the opera house. . . . Half a dozen times during each winter-in the larger towns much oftener-a traveling stock company settled down at the local hotel and thrilled and entertained us for a week." It was not that the buildings themselves were gone when Cather wrote her letter, only that the opera houses were no longer used for musicals, plays, and local talent shows. Vaudeville and "moving pictures" had captured the public's imagination, and could be presented much more cheaply than live theater and in smaller and less elaborate spaces.

For decades many of the opera houses, usually located on the second floor of a main street block, stood vacant and deteriorating, often replaced by apartments or torn down. Twenty-five opera houses survived with sufficient architectural integrity to qualify them for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Only a handful have been restored so that they can be used again for live performances.

One Nebraska opera house that truly deserves the title "incomparable" is in Minden. Recently restored and reopened at a cost exceeding a million dollars, its theater again rings with the sounds of live music and drama. Other spaces have been created within the building for meetings and social gatherings. The Minden Opera House will be a stop on the October 10-11 fall tour for Society volunteers. I think you will be as impressed as I was. In the meantime, you can read Cather's letter in the Winter 1968 issue of Nebraska History. A detailed study of Nebraska opera houses, "Second Floor, Brick Block," by D. Layne Ehlers, appears in the Spring 1991 quarterly

-Jim Potter

Free Gift Offer to NSHS Members Who Refer New Members

Would you like to get a free gift just by telling your friends and relatives about joining the Nebraska State Historical Society? You will if they become a member!

Remember to tell them about when they become a member they will receive a subscription to the quarterly, Nebraska History magazine, a subscription to the bi-monthly members-only Historical Newsletter, free admission to all of the Society's historical sites and museums, invitations to "members-only" special events, and discounts on publications and items purchased at the sites and museum stores. By becoming a member, they will also learn about Nebraska's rich history and help support the programs and services of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Membership Categories are:

Annual: $30 per year for an individual
Family: $45 per year (includes 2 adults and children under 18 years)
Supporting: $75 per year for an individual ($45 of this is tax-deductible)
Contributing: $100 per year for an individual ($70 of this is tax-deductible)
Life Member: $1,000 for an individual (can be paid in two $500 annual installments)

Have your prospective member call Karen Heath, Membership Coordinator, at our toll free number 888-515-3535 or 402-435-3535 to sign up and be sure to let us know that you referred them so that we can send you your free gift. Please call if you have any questions.

Take advantage of these rates and this opportunity!

New Volunteers

Dave Anderson, archeology

Georgia Beebe, MNH collections

Thad Maples, archeology

Phillis Munson, archeology

Brennan Pierce, administration

Alissa Ridenour, education

Tammy Russell, library/archives

Bev Stammler, library/archives

Velora Wilson, MNH collections

Calendar of Events

July 10: Volunteer Program
10:30 a.m., Historic Preservation Office, (third floor of the Lincoln Children's Museum), 1420 P Street, Suite 300, Lincoln

In observance of Independence Day, headquarters offices, the Gerald R. Ford Center in Omaha, and the Library/Archives will be closed Thursday, July 4. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites (except Cather and Neihardt) will be open July 4. Call for holiday hours at the Cather Site (402-746-2653) and the Neihardt Site (402-648-3388).

In observance of Labor Day, headquarters offices and the Ford Center will be closed Monday, September 2. The Museum of Nebraska History and the Historic Sites (except Cather and Neihardt) will be open. For holiday hours at Cather and Neihardt call as above.

"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."

Volunteer News is published bi-monthly for the world-class volunteers at the Nebraska State Historical Society. For information about volunteering with any of our divisions, or at any location across the state, contact:

Deb McWilliams, Volunteer Services
402-471-4955 or 1-800-833-6747

Apply for Volunteer Service today!

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Last updated 18 June 2002

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