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NSHS Volunteer News

March/April 2002

 Volunteer Spotlight on Tom O'BrienTom O'Brien

In 1996 the Society and the museum store were fortunate to engage Tom O'Brien as a volunteer. Six years ago Tom was working with the state of Nebraska's Vocational Rehabilitation program to learn new skills. Tom contacted us about our need for volunteers at the museum store, where he meets customers and makes sales. Tom generally works every Monday morning and some weekends, except for weekends in the fall, which are reserved for cheering-on the Huskers. Tom says that volunteering "keeps me active."

Prior to volunteering for the Society, Tom worked for Ben Simon's and Best Styles Formal Wear in the shoe rental department. He worked for Ben Simon's and Best Styles a total of fourteen years. Tom's years of customer service show in his work as a museum store volunteer.

Many Society volunteers also volunteer for other organizations - Tom is no exception. He volunteers at the information desk for both the downtown senior center and the Nebraska State Office Building. He also works at a downtown parking garage a couple of evenings each week.

According to the staff, Tom's great sense of humor and upbeat personality is appreciated. He also has "an infectious smile that he brings with him each day." Tom's philosophy about volunteering is, "I treat it like a job, because people are depending on you." It is with heartfelt appreciation that we say thanks to Tom for his dedicated service - he is the Society's champion and we applaud him for his many contributions to the Society and the museum store.

Nominations Sought for Board of Trustees

Sara Crook, chair of the Nebraska State Historical Society nominating committee, is seeking candidates for election to the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees. Individuals may run for the board of trustees by becoming members of the Historical Society, and obtaining signatures of twenty-five Society members. Meetings of the board of trustees are held quarterly at various locations across the state. The board of trustees consists of twelve individuals elected by the Society membership, and three appointed by the governor of Nebraska.

Individuals interested in running for the board must contact Crook by May 31, 2002, at 6919 R Road, Peru, NE 68421, or For further information about membership contact the Nebraska State Historical Society at 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-4955.


15th & "P" Streets 402-471-3447

March Markdowns

March 18 - 24, 2002

10:00 - 4:30, Monday - Friday
1:00 - 4:00, Saturday and Sunday

New Society Book Continues Fort Robinson Story

Imagine trying to sleep in a barracks only a few hundred yards from kennels housing nearly 1,800 barking dogs. That was the experience of some Fort Robinson soldiers during World War II, when the fort was home to the world's largest war dog training center. The K-9 (canine) Corps provides only one of the fascinating chapters in Fort Robinson and the American Century, 1900-1948, by Thomas R. Buecker, curator of the Fort Robinson Museum. His earlier volume, Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899, was published by the Society in 1999.

From the 1920s through the mid-1940s Fort Robinson was a major quartermaster remount depot, procuring, conditioning, and issuing thousands of horses and mules for the military mounted services. The U.S. Army Olympic equestrian team trained there in the 1930s. From 1943 to 1946 the fort housed a large prisoner of war camp for German soldiers captured in North Africa. In the 1950s and 1960s Fort Robinson evolved from an army post to an agricultural research station, finally becoming Nebraska's premier state park and a Registered National Historic Landmark.

Much of the research in the forthcoming book is based on personal narratives or documentary materials provided by those who served, lived, or worked at Fort Robinson in the twentieth century. Watch for Fort Robinson and the American Century to be available at Society museum stores by early May.

Summer Workshops for Kids

Have you ever thought about living in a sod house? What was it like to be a child during World War II? Kids are invited to find out in two summer workshops at the Museum of Nebraska History. "Sod House Discoveries" will debut June 10-14 for kids ages 6-8. In this workshop, kids become historians and scientists exploring and investigating their own questions about sod houses using primary sources such as a full-scale reproduction sod house, historic photos, diaries, and more. Last year's popular workshop, "Home Front Families: World War II," will be offered again June 24-28 for 8-12-year-olds. This workshop features daily topics of home front life through crafts, activities, and special guests. Please contact Jessica Stoner, 471-4757,, or visit the website for more information.

Historic Road in America Conference

Coming April 11-13, 2002, in Omaha is the third biennial Preserving the Historic Road in America Conference. Sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Nebraska Department of Roads, and the Federal Highway Administration, this conference will focus on the importance of preserving historic highways in America as well as on design and engineering issues faced when addressing modern safety standards. Presentations will include case studies of historic Nebraska highways featuring Highway 81, which parallels the sixth principal meridian through Nebraska, and the extensive historic highways survey undertaken in partnership by the NSHS and the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Volunteers are needed to assist with duties throughout the conference. These duties include acting as room monitors, hosting tables, and running errands. Volunteers will receive free registration for the day of their participation. This is a national conference expected to attract 300-350 people. The last conference was held in New Jersey and the next conference will be in Oregon. Please contact Melissa Dirr at 402-471-4408 or Jennifer Little at 402-471-4787 if you are interested in volunteering, or if you would like more information about the conference.

Volunteer Program Features Historic Sites

Join us on Wednesday, March 13, for a program that focuses on the Society's Historic Sites: the Chimney Rock National Historic Site, the Fort Robinson Museum, the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, the Thomas P. Kennard House, the Neligh Mill State Historic Site, the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site, and the Willa Cather State Historic Site. Brent Carmack, associate director for museum programs, will present the program.

The program will begin at 10:30 A.M., and be followed by a potluck luncheon in the Gilmore Room at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets.

All volunteers are invited to attend the program and luncheon. Please contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 regarding your attendance.

Upcoming program dates for your calendar include:

Peru State Offers Teacher Institute

The Trails and Tales Tour and Institute IV, an interdisciplinary program in Nebraska history and literature, is once again being offered by Peru State College.  This year's program, Forts and Fables II, will run the last two weeks in June, with the first week on campus and the second on a statewide chartered bus tour.

Attended by a total of more than ninety teachers from across Nebraska in the summers of 1996, 1998, and 2000, Trails and Tales is again receiving funding from the Nebraska Humanities Council, as well as from the Eisenhower Professional Development Program.  The Nebraska State Historical Society is also waiving admission fees to its historic sites.  The first forty
Nebraska educators--teachers, librarians, and museum personnel--who enroll will receive $600 each from the grant funds to defray expenses.  They will also receive $100 in tuition remission from the Peru State College Foundation if they take both graduate courses associated with the program (or $50 if they take only one course).

During the week on campus (June 17-21), Dr. Sara Crook, associate professor of history/political science, will teach history of Nebraska from 9 a.m. to noon.  Dr. Dan Holtz, professor of English, will teach Nebraska literature from 1 to 4 p.m.

Both the tour, which runs from Monday, June 24, through Saturday, June 29, and the two courses focus on the importance of early United States military posts in Nebraska.  The history course will feature readings about this aspect of Nebraska history, while the literature course will draw from the writings of noted Nebraskans Bess Streeter Aldrich, John G. Neihardt, and Mari Sandoz to complement this history.  The tour will feature stops at sites connected to these authors, as well as at forts across Nebraska, including two nights and one day at Ft. Robinson.

The total cost for the program is $1,090.50 (or $791.25 for those taking only the coursework).  That figure includes lodging, transportation, meals and entrance fees on the tour, as well as tuition and fees for six graduate semester hours.  Participants may take one or both courses; they may also elect to go only on the tour, although those taking coursework will receive first preference for admission.

Persons wanting to enroll or to receive more information should contact Dr. Crook (phone 402-872-2279 / e-mail or Dr. Holtz 402-872-2267 / e-mail directly.  The two also receive mail at The School of Arts & Sciences, Peru State College, P.O. Box 10, Peru, NE 68421.

Enrollments will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Quilt Display at Norris Site

Post-World War II quilts will be on display during the month of March at the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site, 706 Norris Avenue, McCook. The display is a result of the generosity of quilters and quilt owners in southwest Nebraska.

Featured in the display are quilts, wall hangings, quilt tops, and clothing. Area volunteers generously assist with the display. The show runs the entire month of March, Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30-12 and 1-5. For special group tours or questions, contact Linda Hein at 308-345-8484 or at

Survey of State's Historic Automotive Highways

The Nebraska Department of Roads and the Nebraska State Historical Society are collaborating on a project to survey the state's historic automotive highways. The project will include a history of the development of roads in Nebraska from turn-of-the-century "good roads" boosters and the earliest "automobile trails" to the construction of the interstate highway system. Five historic highways will be surveyed: the former Grant Highway (U.S. 20), the Canada-to-Mexico Meridian Highway (U.S. 81), the transcontinental Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30), the former Potash Highway (Nebraska Highway 2), and the Detroit-Lincoln-Denver (U.S. 6 and 34).

Survey teams have followed the old routes of these highways to identify early examples of highway construction and other properties related to the roadside, such as old gas stations, tourist camps, and automobile dealerships. The result of the project will be to identify properties historically important to highway transportation in Nebraska, locate and catalog information about these properties to include the planning of future road construction projects, and identify ways to preserve or promote historic preservation through programs such as the Nebraska Byways program. A book on historic highways is also planned.

The project is funded and administered by the Nebraska State Historical Society and the Nebraska Department of Roads. Partial funding has been provided by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. If you have information on early highways or historic properties that should be included, or know of records, documents, or photographs relating to this project, please contact Jill Ebers at the Nebraska State Historical Society, 402-471-4773, toll free 800-833-6747, or

Sewing Assistant Needed

The museum collections department is seeking individuals to assist in providing better storage for the Society's historic clothing collection. Volunteers are needed to construct or sew padded hangers for garments. Materials for the project are supplied.

Individuals must be able to sew by machine and by hand, and follow written instructions. Volunteers will be trained in the care and handling of historic textiles, and learn how to properly store the textiles.

For further information about the project contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 or at

Winter Film Series Returns
Breaking New Ground: The Settlement of the American West in Film

The Society's 2002 film series is intended as a companion piece to the new permanent exhibit, Building the State, which opens March 1. The films were selected to reflect themes and events found in the exhibit, which covers the state's development and growth from 1867 to 1914. All films will be shown at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Sts., at 2:00 PM. There is no charge for admission. Limited seating is available.

March 3 Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)
A unique view of Buffalo Bill and celebrity is presented in this Robert Altman film.

March 10 Hester Street (1975)
The Americanization of Jewish emigrants on New York's Lower East Side is dramatized in Joan Micklin Silver's directorial debut.

The Douglas Theatre Company is providing major underwriting for this series. Additional support is provided by the Audio-Visual Center of Lincoln.

From the Membership Coordinator

I want to introduce myself to all NSHS members. I am Karen Heath and I am the membership coordinator for the Nebraska State Historical Society. You can contact me by mail at the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation office, 215 Centennial Mall South, 408 Lincoln Center Building, Lincoln, NE 68508-1813, or call 402-435-3535 with any membership questions.

Thank you for being a member of the Nebraska State Historical Society. Your interest and support are greatly appreciated.

Brown Bag Lectures at Museum

Join us on the third Thursday of March and April for the Society's free Brown bag lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. The lectures begin at noon - so bring your lunch.

On March 21, Jan Stehlik of the Saline County Historical Society in Dorchester, will present "Flour Mills of Saline County." Plan also to attend the April 18 Brown Bag lecture.

Lincoln Westerners

The Lincoln Corral of Westerners invites you to become a member and attend their programs. Westerners International was founded in Chicago in 1944. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in the history of the American West.

The Lincoln Westerners meet monthly at the Holiday Inn, Ninth and P streets, Lincoln, beginning with a social period at 6:30 P.M., dinner at 7:00, followed by a program at 8:00.

Upcoming programs include:

For further information about the Lincoln Corral of Westerners and reservations (required), call Margaret Allington at 488-5698.

New Volunteers:

Cris Hedgpeth, Ford Center

Bobbie Long, museum store

Michael Maddock, museum collections

Erin McDermott, museum collections

Lauren Owens, museum

Kathy Graf Peterson, Ford Center

Claudius Shoniwa, library/archives

Boyd Stuhr, Sr., museum exhibits

Deborah Uhl, Ford Center

Calendar of Events

March 1: Exhibit Opening
5 - 8:00 p.m., Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

March 3: Film Series
2:00, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

March 10: Film Series
2:00, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

March 13: Volunteer Program
10:30 - program, 11:30 - potluck, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

March 21: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

March 21: Lincoln Westerners
6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn, Ninth and P streets, Lincoln, Nebraska

April 5: NSHS Board of Trustees Meeting

April 11: Lincoln Westerners
6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn, Ninth and P streets, Lincoln, Nebraska

April 11-14: Preserving the Historic Road in America Conference

April 18: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln, Nebraska

April 25-27: Fort Robinson history conference

Membership Makes A Great Gift

Looking for that special holiday gift that keeps on giving all year long? How about a membership in the Nebraska State Historical Society? Recipients of the gift will receive Nebraska History, a quarterly magazine devoted to the story of Nebraska's past; bimonthly newsletters; information about upcoming events; and discounts on publications and items purchased at Society museum stores.

The cost for a membership is outlined here. Membership makes a great gift, and helps the Society fulfill its mission to safeguarding and interpreting Nebraska's past. Thank you for joining!

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 11 April 2002

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