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NSHS Volunteer News

May / June 2005

 Volunteer Spotlight on Dick Young

 In some circles he is known as "the bass player in the Greg Spevak Band," in others he is called "Forever Young," but at the Nebraska State Historical Society he is known for his memory of people and events from the past, and his expertise with audio-visual technology - Moving Image Preservation. Dick Young volunteers in the Library/Archives Division, using old technology and equipment to assist with transferring film footage to new digital media that can be accessed with current technology.

Dick's experience and talents are diverse. He has been a teacher, was the first television still photographer when the short-lived KFOR-TV came to Lincoln, and worked with Nebraska Educational Television. During the latter part of his career he taught photography at the University of Nebraska School of Journalism. With a big smile (and using sign language as we spoke) he talked about his work at the UN-L Barkley Center as the media specialist for special education, working on federal projects for the hearing impaired.

Dick has been volunteering at the Nebraska State Historical since his retirement in 1989. He met Paul Eisloeffel, the Society's audio-visual and photograph curator, when Paul needed assistance with cleaning, editing, and transferring movie film to other media. At the time the NSHS had the right equipment for the specialized work, and certainly a lot of film, but little help. It found that help in Dick Young.

Some of Dick's projects at the NSHS have included repairing, cleaning and reformatting film from NSHS's collections for a recent production by KYNE (UN-Omaha's television station) entitled "Omaha After the War."  He has also worked on film used in Society grant projects and has prepared eight- and sixteen-millimeter film so it can be transferred to DVD. Dick commented, "I get a kick out of understanding a dying technology [eight- and sixteen-millimeter film and its corresponding equipment] that is still needed and valued by the NSHS to preserve these films." According to Dick, "My knowledge of past technology and learning about the new technology lets me get back and do what I like to do, and have the opportunity to work with great people. It's keeping me young!"

In wrapping up our interview Dick commented that the best thing about volunteering is that it helps him keep up with the new technology.  "I have always been one that likes to keep up with leading edge technology, and my volunteer work helps me do just that." According to Paul, "Dick's ability to connect events and people from his own personal experience with this form of technology, and his ability to use it for the good of the NSHS collections is both invaluable and amazing."

Dick is still an active musician, playing bass in the Greg Spevak Band for as many as ten dances a month in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Using his background as a media specialist, Dick started a videotaping program at his church, and he has been singing in the church choir since 1950.

The NSHS is doubly lucky not only to have Dick as a volunteer, but also to have his wife, Evelyn, who provides a tremendous service in the Library/Archives assisting patrons with their research. Dick's knowledge, talent, and attitude greatly benefit the NSHS, and will certainly keep him "Forever Young."

-- Deb McWilliams


The First Century of Nebraska Automobile Registration

This year marks the centennial of the first law passed by the Nebraska legislature to require the registration of automobiles. "Horseless carriages" had appeared on the Nebraska scene well before 1905, but they had been considered little more than curiosities. The horse and the railroad still held sway as Nebraskans' primary modes of travel.

By 1905, however, the number of automobiles was increasing, and as governments are wont to do, regulating them seemed like a good idea. Beginning in 1906, each automobile in Nebraska was to be registered with the Secretary of State at a cost of one dollar. Each registrant was assigned a number in order of application. The number was to be displayed on the rear of the vehicle in numerals not less than three inches high and one-half inch wide. The law did not further specify how the number was to be displayed, which was the responsibility of the car owner. Early plates were often metal numbers attached to a piece of leather, and some were simply painted leather.

In 1906 there were 571 registered vehicles in Nebraska, 4,200 by 1908, and more than 100,000 by 1916. In 1915 the state began to provide metal license plates. Colors were changed annually to help monitor registration compliance. The county numbering system was instituted in 1922, and was based on the number of cars in each county at that time. Douglas County had the most, so it became number "1." Hooker County had the fewest, gaining the number "93."

The legislature tried a letter system to replace the county numbers in 1951, Adams County being "A," Lancaster County being "L," and Douglas County being "X," for example. Some counties had two letters, since there are ninety-three counties and only twenty-six letters in the alphabet. There was such a public outcry that Nebraska returned to the county number system in 1952, which remained in use statewide until 2002, after the legislature mandated that all counties with more than 100,000 residents use a three-letter prefix instead of a county number. This change affected only Douglas, Lancaster, and Sarpy counties. Although other counties had the option to change to a letter prefix, the rest still retain their traditional numbers. One new county treasurer was told by her fellow treasurers in 2003 that making the switch "would be like signing your death warrant."

Of course, there have been many other changes in Nebraska licensing regulations and the license plates themselves since 1906, including different state slogans, different designs and materials, multiple-year use of the plates, and the option to display message and other special types of license plates. Another major change has been the cost to register our cars, as everyone realizes when they receive their annual notice from the county treasurer's office.

-- Jim Potter, with thanks to Cindy Drake



Gas prices keeping you close to home this summer? Why not take family and friends on a tour of Nebraska? Your membership benefits include unlimited free admission to the Nebraska State Historical Society's historical sites plus discounts on museum store items. Nebraska State Historical Society sites include: the Fort Robinson Museum and Chimney Rock National Historic Site to the west; the Senator George Norris House and Willa Cather State Historic Site to the south; and the Neligh Mill and John G. Neihardt State Historic Sites to the north. In Lincoln, visit the Museum of Nebraska History, which just opened a new exhibit titled, Beadwork Masterpieces:  Native American Bandolier Bags of the Prairies and Lakes, and the Thomas P. Kennard House. Spend a hot summer day researching in the Library/Archives at the NSHS Headquarters, 1500 R Street, Lincoln; or consider a visit to the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center. Lots of wonderful possibilities! For further information about these Nebraska treasures visit

Lincoln's History Mystery Coming May 20th

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation invites you to participate in the Lincoln's History Mystery event scheduled for May 20 from 6:00-10:00 PM. This is a unique and educational event that will take participants, along with their clues, to Lincoln's historic Haymarket. Funds raised during this event will help to support a number of projects at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

To learn more about the event call the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation at 402-435-3535 or visit


Brown Bag Lectures on TV

Join us on the third Thursday of May and June for the Society's free Brown Bag Lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P Streets, Lincoln. The lectures begin at noon ­ bring your lunch and learn something new.

May 19: Brown Bag Lecture, Old Baldy, by Greg Miller.
In May 1804 Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the Corps of Discovery set out from their camp near St. Louis, Missouri, to explore the recently acquired Louisiana Territory, continuing westward to the Pacific Ocean. By September 1804 the Corps reached the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri rivers in present-day northeastern Nebraska. On September 7, 1804, they discovered a unique geologic feature and a scientifically new animal species. This program will discuss events leading up to their discovery, what they found, and place its significance in the context of the entire journey.

June 16: Brown Bag Lecture, a presentation on History Mystery Sites and Clues by Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee.
Learn a little more about Lincoln's fascinating history and places with two of Nebraska's most entertaining historians. Ed Zimmer and Jim McKee will present the sites and clues that were featured in the Nebraska State Historical Society's History Mystery fundraiser.

If you are unable to attend the lectures at the museum, catch the series as it is broadcast each month on Lincoln Cablevision Channel 5. Lectures are televised the month following the original presentation. The history forum lecture series is broadcast on Wednesdays at noon and 8:30 PM, Fridays at 5:00 PM and Saturdays at 6:00 PM.

The lectures are also being broadcast in Omaha on public access Channel 23 and Cox's new digital Channel 802. The lectures air on Cox Channel 23 at 3:00 PM on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, followed by five days of broadcast on Digital 802.

Funding for the filming of the Brown Bag Lecture Series is provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.


Docents and Tours

Springtime at the Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History is a busy season for our docents. Fourth-grade students from all over the state come in busloads-sometimes very large busloads to visit the museum. But did you know that fourth-grade students are not the only people our docents lead through the museum? The beauty of the docent program is that all our docents are trained to lead groups of any age and interest level. Some of the docents have even been called on to lead groups from other countries!

One of our most popular non-traditional tours is through the Patchwork Lives exhibit. One group of forty-five quilters arrived last October from Illinois to take a tour. Their four-day trip covered five states, twelve quilt shops, as well as the museum. After their tour, one of the visitors commented that seeing the quilts here was "a dream come true" for many of them, and their tour at the Museum of Nebraska History, led by docent Jack Chaffin, was the highlight of the entire trip.

Some of the docents have even been called on to lead tours for international visitors. This past January, one Turkish delegate was visiting Lincoln as a guest through the Mayor's Committee for International Friendship. He and his interpreter learned more about The First Nebraskans through an individual tour led by one of our docents, Jerry Tharp. Earlier this month, another docent, Mary Lienemann, led a group of Russian museum officials through our permanent exhibits, The First Nebraskans, Nebraska Joins the Union, and Building the State. Both docents rose to the challenge of delivering a tour to non-English speakers with the aid of interpreters.

The NSHS recently hosted a gathering of activity directors from various senior citizen centers around Lincoln. Many of our docents came to the meeting, and led the group through the entire museum. The docents all agreed that it was great to have the opportunity to invite seniors into the museum as another segment of their tour population.

Recently area Cub Scouts have shown interest in learning more about how everyday life in Nebraska has changed throughout time. On several occasions docents have led first grade Cub Scouts through our permanent exhibits, discussing the Pawnee earth lodge, the Winnebago living room, the Carson parlor, the sod house, and the general store. It takes some creativity to explain Nebraska history to six-year-olds!

If it weren't for the dedication of our volunteer docents, who spend hours every month reading and studying Nebraska history in order to be better informed and deliver more dynamic tours, the tours at the Museum of Nebraska History would just be cookie-cutter tours. The docents' flexibility and desire to serve visitors of all ages is greatly appreciated by everyone!

-- Belinda Hall

Volunteer Appreciation at NET

The Nebraska State Historical Society invites all volunteers and staff to attend a Volunteer Appreciation on Friday, May 6, 2005, at 1:30 PM, at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) Terry M. Carpenter Center, 1800 N. 33rd Street, Lincoln. Event highlights include a tour of the newly renovated NET facilities, an opportunity to view short film promotions utilizing NET's new high definition technology, and enjoy refreshments. NSHS volunteers should park in areas marked "visitor parking."

The event is an opportunity for the NSHS staff to thank and congratulate volunteers who have contributed numerous hours of service to assist in carrying out the NSHS's mission. Volunteers are indeed one of the greatest resources of the NSHS. Please rsvp by calling Lana at 471-3272 or email her at


Seeking the Talents of Volunteers

Volunteer Services is looking to fill a few volunteer positions to assist with a book sale. The NSHS staff will provide training and materials.

Volunteers are needed to assist the library curator prepare for an upcoming book sale planned for the fall of 2005. Help is needed to price, sort, and box books, as well as some data entry work. Staff will also need help a little closer to the sale to box and load the books into vehicles to transport them to an offsite location. The book sale will cover three-days during which help will be needed to use a cash register and bag books. The books to be sold do not meet the mission of the NSHS, and are not part of our library collection.

If you, or someone you know, are interested in assisting with any of these tasks, please contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955.


New Faces

Tony Epp, library/archives

Dick Jensen, research and publications

Jay Schwaninger, archeology


Save the Dates - Fall Tour in September

Save the dates of September 29-30 for the annual fall tour for NSHS volunteers, members, and friends. Although the itinerary has not yet been finalized, you can be sure we will visit some fascinating historic sites and museums and share good companionship. More details will follow in the next newsletter.

Calendar *


May 6: Volunteer Appreciation, 1:30 p.m.
Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) Terry M. Carpenter Center, 1800 N. 33rd Street, Lincoln.

May 19: Brown Bag Lecture, 12:00 noon


June 16: Brown Bag Lecture, 12:00 noon

* Events held at the Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln unless otherwise noted.

Indian on horseback logo


Books for Mother's Day and Father's Day

Something for Mother

Something for Father


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

"The Nebraska State Historical Society collects, preserves, and opens to all, the histories we share."

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 27 April 2005

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