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NSHS Volunteer News

November / December 2003

 Volunteer Spotlight on Dorothy Munson

Dorothy Munson photo
This bimonthly spotlight introduces Dorothy Munson, who describes herself as someone who likes to be a "behind the scenes" volunteer - she admits, however, that volunteering at the Society's museum store in Lincoln isn't necessarily behind the scenes. Dorothy's history with the museum store goes back to the beginning. Does anyone else remember when the store got its start at the Museum of Nebraska History? Well Dorothy does, it was 1985, and she was one of the first volunteers at the store.

Dorothy got her start at NSHS and the store when her sister read a newspaper article about NSHS needing docents, and shared the article with Dorothy, knowing she might be interested. Dorothy said, "At the time I was working part-time, and I inquired about being a docent, but decided that my part-time job wouldn't work with the needs of the docent program. At the same time I discovered that the Society was also looking for help for the new store, and I thought that the store would be a better place for me to volunteer." Dorothy volunteers at the store on Wednesdays, and she can tell you about every store location and transformation since 1985.

This is what Dorothy has to say about volunteering: "It is important to be part of the community and to give something back. You don't need to be paid for everything you do - you need to give of yourself." A couple of the things Dorothy enjoys about volunteering at NSHS include "the tours and activities - they pique my interest." Dorothy added, "the people that work at the NSHS are very good to the volunteers."

Dorothy is also involved in genealogical organizations, PEO, Eastern Star, and enjoys going to the Community Playhouse Theatre. She noted her interests lie in "history combined with travel." Dorothy's daughter, Karen, has recently received her master's degree in history, and her son is pursuing his Ph.D. and lives in Munich, Germany.

Behind the scenes, or in the forefront, we appreciate Dorothy's long commitment to NSHS and the museum store. Thanks Dorothy for your dedication!

-- Deb McWilliams

Indian on horseback logo
Museum Store Discount Day

December 2
Twenty-five Percent Discount
for Society Volunteers

Volunteers, start your holiday shopping at the NSHS Museum Stores. The Museum Stores offer a wide variety of educational and unique merchandise.

Stop in, call us at 402-471-3447 or 1-800-833-6747, or check the store's website at for Nebraska and western history books, Lewis and Clark books and gifts, educational items, and a great selection of merchandise from Nebraska artists.

The discount applies at any of our museum stores, including those at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln; the Fort Robinson Museum near Crawford; the Chimney Rock National Historic Site near Bayard; the senator George W. Norris State Historic Site in McCook; the Neligh Mill State Historic Site in Neligh, and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha. We suggest you call for store hours.

Brown Bag Lectures

Each month the Nebraska State Historical Society hosts a free Brown Bag lecture at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. The lectures begin at noon and we invite you to bring your lunch and enjoy the program.

On November 20, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Bob Puschendorf will present "The Call of the Open Road."

Plan also to join us on December 18, for a presentation on "Highlights of NSHS Treasures," by Museum Collections Curator Deb Arenz and Curator of Visual and Audio Collections Paul Eisloeffel.

Surveys of Four Counties Complete

The State Historic Preservation Office has received the final products from the Historic Buildings Surveys of Nuckolls, Sarpy, Saunders and Webster counties surveyed during 2002-03. Sarpy and Saunders counties were selected, in part, because of the development pressure they have experienced due to their proximity to Omaha. In addition to the usual county survey project, the Webster County survey revisited a previous study of the built environment of Willa Cather's childhood hometown, Red Cloud, and its environs. In 1981, as the culmination of this study, The Willa Cather Thematic Group Multiple Property Nomination was listed on the National Register, and included twenty-six individually-listed properties, as well as four historic districts. Together, these properties are a representative cross-section of Webster County's architectural character, but they also are significant for their association with Willa Cather. This year surveyors reevaluated these historic properties by photographing them, assessing their integrity, and preparing updated maps.

The information from each of these surveys, including county and community histories, historic photographs, and photographs of representative and potentially eligible properties, is available in final report form from the State Historic Preservation Office. They are free to the public. Please call Jill Ebers at 471-4773 if you are interested in obtaining a copy.

Summer Workshop Participation Jumps from 50 in 2002 to 700 in 2003 With New "Making History Workshops"

With the new, shorter workshop format, the NSHS Museum of Nebraska History is developing a new audience -- children in child care -- and greatly increasing the number of scheduled groups using the museum in the summer. The workshops were developed by Museum Educator Jessica Stoner and summer intern Amanda Ray, with art resources by Curt Peacock and Alice Filbert, and workshop assistance from UNL work study students Emily Hansen and Stacy Cervantes. Once we prepared the tours, classroom, and crafts, a core of ten specially trained docents made these workshops a success. The goal of a "Making History Workshop" is to make an object on exhibit and think about its construction, use, and significance through a docent-led tour and craft. The cost per child is $3 and a workshop is available for Kindergarten through fifth graders for each exhibit. A big thank you to the docents and museum staff from all departments who helped make these workshops possible. "Making History Workshops" are now offered year round. The following docents led the workshops.

Penny Stovall
Don Humphrey
Jim Kendrick
Gladi Helm
Barole Barnes-Montgomery
Kathy Plessman
Jack Chaffin
Phyllis Fischer
Rich Oehlerking
Linda Oehlerking
Don Swing
Glen Houtz
Evelyn Hastings

Thank you!

Engineer Cantonment: The Winter Camp of the Stephen Long Expedition, 1819-20

You have probably read news articles reporting that Nebraska State Historical Society archeologists Gayle Carlson and Rob Bozell have identified the site of Engineer Cantonment. This was the 1819-20 winter camp of Maj. Stephen Long's party of scientists and army engineers, which, the next spring, would proceed west along the Platte to explore the Great Plains. Engineer Cantonment, established at the same time and about five miles south of the military post of Cantonment Missouri (later renamed Fort Atkinson), remained one of Nebraska's most significant undiscovered historic sites until last spring.

The Long party arrived at Engineer Cantonment in September 1819 on board the Western Engineer, the first steamboat to ascend the upper Missouri. Both the cantonment and the Western Engineer appear in a painting by Titian R. Peale, the expedition's naturalist. Peale's painting appears on the cover of the spring 1970 issue of Nebraska History. This painting was a key to locating the site because it faithfully reproduced the topography near the cantonment, which has changed little to the present day.

During their stay at Engineer Cantonment, Long and his party held councils with the Oto/Missourias, Pawnees, and Iowas. They socialized with fur traders, soldiers, and Indian agents, including Manuel Lisa, whose trading post was nearby, and Mrs. Lisa, believed the first white woman to visit Nebraska. Although Major Long returned East for much of the winter, most of his men remained at the cantonment. During their sojourn they began collecting and documenting the local flora and fauna, a practice they would continue as they trekked west across the Plains in 1820.

The notion that the Great Plains was nothing more than a vast desert is often attributed to Long, who labeled the region "Great American Desert" on his expedition's map. But the desert label originated with Lt. Zebulon Pike, who reached Nebraska in 1806 and held a council with the Pawnees at their village on the Republican River before traveling on to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest.

This belief in the Great Plains as desert was not all negative, argues historian Roger Nichols. Because the region teemed with vast herds of buffalo, great numbers of Indians, and lacked timber and known mineral resources, homebuilding would have been impossible there in that early period. Thinking the Plains were uninhabitable, settlers grew interested in migrating farther west to Oregon and California after hearing glowing reports of their advantages. This great leap westward was a major spur to "Manifest Destiny." Once the United States gained a foothold on the Pacific Coast, the settlement of the interior became inevitable, particularly when overland emigrants and others began to realize that the Plains was not a desert after all. For more on the Long expedition and its significance in Western History see Nichols, "Stephen H. Long and Army Exploration on the Plains," Nebraska History 52 (Spring 1971).

Engineer Cantonment dig photo
NSHS archeologist Gayle Carlson, volunteer Ken Lemley, and NSHS archeologist Rob Bozell at the Engineer Cantonment site.

As for Engineer Cantonment, preliminary excavations have confirmed the site and more archeological work is planned. With the history of Western exploration much on our minds these days as we enter the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, it is gratifying that the discovery of Engineer Cantonment provides a tangible link to early American exploration of the region that later became Nebraska.

--Jim Potter

Invitation to Westerners

The Lincoln Corral of Westerners, an organization dedicated to promoting knowledge of and appreciation for Western history, invites you to join their chapter. The Westerners meet in the evenings on the second Thursday, September through May, at the Holiday Inn, Ninth and P Streets, Lincoln.

Social activities begin at 6:30 PM, with dinner at 7:00, and the program following at 8:00. Reservations are required. On November 13, the program will be presented by Les Vilda of Wilber, who will be dressed in costume and speak on the "Modern Day Encounter with the Santa Fe Trail." Tom Thiessen, archeologist with the National Park Service, will talk about the "Mandan Fur Trade" on December 18.

In 2004 Pat Pixley from the Historical Society of Douglas County in Omaha, will talk about "Victorian Christmas Traditions on January 8. On February 2, Rob Bozell, Nebraska State Historical Society archeologist will discuss a recent archeology discovery, Stephen Long's Engineer Cantonment, and the results of their findings.

For further information contact Margaret Allington at 488-5698.

Holiday Happenings at the NSHS

The Nebraska State Historical Society's Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln, will be wearing its holiday finery November 29-December 31. An 1890s sod house depicts holidays on the homestead, along with dollhouses decorated in miniature. The museum is open Tuesday-Friday, 9-4:30; Saturday and Sunday, 1-4:30.

Volunteers Needed for Victorian Holidays Past at the Kennard House

Victorian Holidays Past, featuring Victorian toys, decorations, and historic photographs will be held at the Historical Society's Thomas P. Kennard House, 1627 H, in Lincoln from December 1-31.  The house will be open Monday - Friday by appointment.  Regular admission will be charged. Nebraska State Historical Society members are admitted free. 

Volunteers are needed on Tuesday, November 24 from 9-11 AM to help decorate the house. Additional help is needed for an open house on Sunday, December 7, from 1-5 PM, the afternoon of the tree-lighting ceremony at the state capitol. For additional information call John Lindahl at 402-471-4764.

Memberships Make Great Gifts

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 this 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 an annual membership is only $35. Other membership categories are also available. Membership makes a great gift, and helps the Society fulfill its mission to safeguard and interpret Nebraska's past and make it accessible in ways that enrich present and future generations. For further information about membership call Karen at 402-435-3535.

Recovered Views
Exhibit Runs Through January 11, 2004

Recovered Views: African American Portraits, 1912-1915, a remarkable collection of black-and-white images made by an African American photographer who lived and worked in Lincoln in the early twentieth century, is open at the Society's, Museum of Nebraska History until January 11, 2004.

The photographic exhibit documents life in Lincoln's vibrant black community, a society rarely depicted in any medium. Following exhibition at the Society's, Museum of Nebraska History, the exhibit will tour nationally through ExhibitsUSA, a division of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. For further information call 471-4754.

NSHS Board of Trustees News

During the Nebraska State Historical Society's recent annual meeting, President Jack R. Preston announced the results of the 2003 Board of Trustees election.

Margaret Allington of Lincoln and Patricia (Pat) Phillips of Omaha were reelected to their second terms from the first and second congressional districts, respectively. Dr. Samuel H. Rankin, Jr. of Chadron was elected from the third congressional district. Governor Mike Johanns appointed Tijuana R. Smith-Secret of Omaha as a trustee from the second congressional district. All terms are three years.

Keith Blackledge of North Platte and Dr. Herb Grandbois of Omaha will complete their terms on the board in 2003. Other Nebraska State Historical Society Trustees are:

Dr. Peter Bleed of Lincoln
James Denney of Omaha
Joyce Hillman-Kortum of Gering
Patrick Kennedy of Omaha
Jason Kress of Sterling
Ann Marsh of Grand Island
Dr. Martin Massengale of Lincoln
Jack Preston of Lyman
Charles Trimble of Omaha
Sally Stauffer Vifquain of Kearney
Bev Wilhelm of Unadilla

Individuals may run for the Nebraska State Historical Society Board of Trustees by becoming members of the Society and obtaining the signatures of twenty-five Society members. For further information about membership or the Board of Trustees election, contact the Nebraska State Historical Society at 1-800-833-6747 or 402-471-4955.

Nationally-Distinguished Nebraskans

E. A. Kral of Wilber knows first hand the importance of research. Kral has put together a bio-bibliography of seven hundred Nebraska natives or residents who from 1854 to the present, are recognized by peers in their field of expertise for notable contributions on a national or international level.

Kral has researched these nationally distinguished Nebraskans for the past seven years. To learn more about these Nebraskans and their contributions visit the websites of the Nebraska State Education Association at, the Nebraska Press Association at, or the Gage County Historical Society at

Volunteer Program Highlights Nebraska History

Join us on November 12 at 10:30 AM in the Capitol View Room at the Society's headquarters, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, for a program that will give you a preview of the changes coming to the Society's Nebraska History magazine.

Nebraska History Editor Don Cunningham will present the program at 10:30, followed by a potluck luncheon. All volunteers are invited to the program and potluck. Please contact Deb McWilliams at 471-4955 regarding your attendance.

New Faces

Jeanette Adams, museum store

Cathy Beecham, archeology

Suzy Burda, historic preservation

Hanh Hong Ho, library/archives

Heather Kline, archeology

Regina Medina, archeology

Katie Schmitz, administration


Calendar of Events
November / December 2003

November 2003

November thru January 11: Recovered Views Exhibit

November 12: *Volunteer Program
10:30 a.m., Capitol View Room, NSHS Headquarters, Lincoln

November 13: *Lincoln Corral of Westerners
6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn, Ninth and P Streets, Lincoln

November 20: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon

November 29-December 31: Holiday Exhibits

December 2003

December 1-31: *Victorian Holidays
Kennard House, Lincoln

December 2: Museum Store Discount Day

December 7: *Holiday Open House, Kennard House
1-5 p.m., Kennard House, Lincoln

December 18: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon

December 18: *Lincoln Corral of Westerners
6:30 p.m., Holiday Inn, Ninth and P Streets, Lincoln

(*Location other than the Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln)


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"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 10 November 2003

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