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NSHS Volunteer News

November / December 2004

 Volunteer Spotlight on Lisa Westerholt
Lisa Westerholt
Lisa's history degree and furthering her education
have been the impetus for volunteering at the Nebraska State Historical Society. Lisa explained, "I became interested in volunteering at NSHS because I have always loved history," and "I wanted to learn more about the library/archives division."

While volunteering with the library/archives division, Lisa's achievements include working on re-housing manuscripts, letters, maps, and correspondence. In addition, Lisa checks-in periodicals, which she indicates, "pique my interest because of the variety of subjects" that are available.

Lisa contributes one to two days a week to NSHS, thanks to the generosity of her employer, Lincoln Benefit Life Insurance. Because of Lisa's interest in furthering her education beyond her history degree, she wanted to become more familiar with the library/archives division in her pursuit of a graduate degree. Because her paying job as an accountant didn't provide her with the exposure in her area of interest, she investigated volunteer possibilities, and with the support of her employer, she has been able to work and volunteer.

As I continued my interview with Lisa, I asked her what the best thing has been about volunteering with the NSHS. She responded, "It is knowing that I help out, and that by volunteering I am helping make all types of materials last longer for the future." Lisa also very generously acknowledged that the "staff thanks me, and I know that my work assists both staff and patrons."

In preparation for graduate school Lisa is studying for the Millers Analogy Test (MAT) ­ an entrance exam. She indicated that her volunteer experience at the NSHS has helped her to "get some experience to assist in making decisions about graduate school." She also confided, "I wish I could experience every section of the NSHS in my thirst for learning."

In her spare time Lisa also volunteers for the Lincoln public libraries, enjoys music, reading, and hanging out with friends. On behalf of the NSHS, I wish Lisa the very best in her pursuit for continuing education, and thank her for the many contributions toward preserving NSHS collections!

--Deb McWilliams

Filmmaker Ken Burns Here on November 20

For twenty years documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has touched and moved Americans with stories from our past. His monumental eleven-hour PBS documentary series The Civil War is considered a television landmark that has changed the way America understands its history.

In some twenty films--including Baseball, Jazz, The West, The Brooklyn Bridge, Mark Twain, Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, Thomas Jefferson --Burns has told America some of its own most important stories.

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation is delighted to invite you to meet Ken Burns, "America's Storyteller," in person on November 20 at the Rococo Theatre in the historic Stuart Building at Thirteenth and P streets in downtown Lincoln.

Entertainment will include several of Nebraska's best known musicians: Peter Blakeslee, Dave Fowler, Steve Hanson, Carolyn Johnsen, David Morris, and the Landis Family-David, Melodee, and Matt. They'll be performing a rich variety of tunes, from the historic 1854 anti-slavery song "The Right of Nebraska" to hot modern swing.

Tickets for this fundraising event are $35 per person (a portion of this amount may be tax deductible as a charitable contribution). A complimentary dessert buffet is included. Cash bar. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., Ken Burns will speak at 8:00. Seating is limited. Call 402-435-3535 for reservations.

NSHS Board of Trustees News

During the Nebraska State Historical Society's recent annual meeting, President Patrick Kennedy announced the results of the 2004 Board of Trustees election.

Peter Bleed of Lincoln was reelected to his second term from the first congressional district. John Schleicher of Omaha, from the second congressional district, and Cheryl Clark of Elwood from the third congressional district were elected to their first terms. Governor Mike Johanns will make an appointed from the first congressional district. All terms are three years.

Jim Denney of Omaha and Dr. Martin Massengale of Lincoln will complete their terms on the board in December 2004. Sally Stauffer Vifquain resigned from her term earlier in 2004. Other Nebraska State Historical Society Trustees are: Margaret Allington of Lincoln, Joyce Hillman-Kortum of Gering, Patrick Kennedy of Omaha, Jason Kress of Sterling, Ann Marsh of Grand Island, Pat Phillips of Omaha, Jack Preston of Lyman, Dr. Sam Rankin of Chadron, Charles Trimble of Omaha, and 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.

Bob Lamb Remembered

Our sympathies go out to the family and friends of Robert (Bob) Lamb, NSHS volunteer from 1995 to 2004, who died in Lincoln September 15, 2004.  Bob was featured in the July/August 2002 issue of Volunteer News.

Nebraska's Identity

The pending selection of a final design for the Nebraska quarter, winnowed from thousands of suggestions Nebraskans have submitted, reminds us of just how seriously we take the symbols and slogans that represent our state to outsiders. Do we want to be remembered for some unique physical landmark, such as Chimney Rock, or for some historical milestone, such as the first homestead in the United States or as the home of Arbor Day? Perhaps we'd like to call attention to our political innovations, such as the unicameral legislature or our publicly owned power system. Is being recognized primarily as a college football powerhouse a plus or minus? Should we present ourselves as looking back into the past, or forward into the future? Similar issues come up each time our license plates are redesigned.

In Nebraska's early years, she had to overcome the label assigned by the early explorers: "The Great American Desert." It soon became apparent that this perception was faulty, but even now, we who live here know that not every part of Nebraska is suited by climate or landscape for agriculture, particularly without irrigation. And a New Yorker driving through the Sandhills might think the desert label still applies, though we know the region as the world's best cattle country. We also realize that Nebraska is not entirely flat, but tell that to travelers who never leave I-80.

Nicknames have often revealed how Nebraskans perceived themselves, or were perceived by others. We have been blessed (or cursed) with various nicknames including "Bug Eaters," "Tree Planters," and "Cornhuskers." Nebraska has had two official state names: "The Tree Planter State" (1895-1945), and "The Cornhusker State" (1945-present). From 1956 through 1965, the license plate carried the motto, "The Beef State," but it was never an official state name by act of the legislature. Many outsiders may think that "Cornhusker State" derived from the football team, rather than the other way around. But even for today's Nebraskans, "husking" corn is a quaint and dimly- remembered remnant of our agricultural past.

Apparently "squatters" was the earliest nickname applied to Nebraskans, according to a July 21, 1860, article in the Omaha Weekly Nebraskian. This term undoubtedly surfaced because many early Nebraska settlers moved onto their claims before the land had been surveyed. Although being called squatters was not very flattering or inspiring, other state nicknames of that era arguably were worse. How about the South Carolina Weasels, the Illinois Suckers, the Alabama Lizards, the Georgia Buzzards, the Missouri Pukes, or the Mississippi Tadpoles? Several state nicknames in 1860 were the same as today, for example, the Wisconsin Badgers, Michigan Wolverines, and Iowa Hawkeyes.

By the later years of the nineteenth century, "Bug Eaters" had replaced "Squatters" as the Nebraska nickname. According to John A. MacMurphy, secretary of the Nebraska Territorial Pioneers Association, writing in November 1894, the bug eater appellation probably originated during the grasshopper invasions of the 1870s. An easterner came to Nebraska to visit relatives and, on his return home, was asked about conditions here. According to MacMurphy's account, the man responded, "Oh, everything is gone up there. The grasshoppers have eaten the grain up, the potato bugs ate the 'taters all up, and now the inhabitants are eating the bugs to keep alive." Some newspaperman heard the comment and published it as a joke.

MacMurphy argued that the Territorial Pioneers and other groups should promote "Tree Planters" as the official state nickname "and say goodbye to the Bug-eaters forever." Their efforts succeeded when the legislature, on April 4, 1895, passed a resolution declaring Nebraska "The Tree Planter State" in honor of its role as the originator of Arbor Day.

I don't envy those facing the difficult task of selecting what will appear on the Nebraska quarter. But it will be interesting to see this latest installment in our search for a Nebraska identity.

--Jim Potter

Lewis and Clark was the theme of a recent bus trip that took NSHS members, volunteers, and friends to a variety of sites related to the theme, and a keelboat ride at Onawa, IA.

Holiday Discount at Museum Store

Members will receive a twenty percent discount on merchandise purchased at NSHS museum stores, December 3-10, as special thanks for your support of the NSHS this holiday season. The store features many books on Nebraska and Western history, Lewis and Clark books and gifts, along with windmill, covered wagon, and quilt kits, classic toys in tin boxes (e.g. football, baseball), and a number of educational gifts for children. Stop by, or call us at 471-3447, 1-800-833-6747 (toll free), or visit our website at

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, the Walter and Ruby Behlen State Historic Site in Columbus, and the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha. We suggest you call for store hours. Happy holidays!

Indian on horseback logo



Children's Items

Unique Jewelry

Other Gift Ideas

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


Surveys of Two Counties Complete

The State Historic Preservation Office has received the final products from the Historic Buildings Surveys of Cass and Nemaha counties surveyed during 2003-04. Surveyors drove every public road in each county, evaluating every building at least fifty years old, and photographing and mapping the buildings that still look much as they did when they were first constructed. They evaluated almost 900 properties in Cass County and 760 properties in Nemaha County. In addition to these activities, they also assessed the two commercial areas in Auburn for potential National Register eligibility, and performed a statistical analysis of the resurvey of Cass County.

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.

Assistance Needed During Victorian Holidays Past

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, Monday, November 29 ­ Thursday, December 30. The house will be open Monday ­ Friday by appointment. Regular admission will be charged. Nebraska State Historical Society members are free.

There will be a free open house for the public from 1 ­ 5 on Sunday, December 5. Volunteers will be needed to help decorate the house on Tuesday, November 23 from 9- 11 A.M. Additional help will be needed to help host the open house on December 5. For additional information call John Lindahl at 402-471-4764.

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 23 - January 2. 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.

Special Holiday Offer: Lewis and Clark on the Middle Missouri
by Gary E. Moulton

Need a great gift idea? Give a Nebraska State Historical Society gift membership at any level, and the new member will receive, as a bonus, Lewis and Clark on the Middle Missouri by Gary E. Moulton!  An annual membership is only $35, and other membership categories are also available. Membership helps the NSHS fulfill its mission to collect, preserve, and make available the history we share. Call 402-435-3535 or 888-515-3535 to send your gift today.

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 are free to the public. Bring your lunch and enjoy the program!

November 18: Brown Bag Lecture, "Nebraska Quilts," by Carolyn Ducey, curator, International Quilt Study Center. A new rotation of Nebraska quilts will be on exhibit.

December 16: Brown Bag Lecture, "From the Vault," by Deb Arenz, senior museum curator, Nebraska State Historical Society. During the past 125 years, the NSHS has accumulated a museum collection of more than 180,000 artifacts. Arenz will discuss some of the most beautiful, interesting, notorious, and downright bizarre artifacts from the collection, many of which are rarely seen.

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. The upcoming program schedule is as follows:

For further information contact Margaret Allington at 488-5698.

New Faces

Dolores Deed, museum store

L. J. Divine, library/archives

Dorene Eisentrager, museum store

Elaine Gelber, museum store

Nolan Johnson, archeology

Cheney M. Luttich, museum

Elisha Mackling, archeology


November 11: * Lincoln Corral of Westerners

November 18: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

November 23 ­ January 2: Holiday Exhibits at MNH

December 2: Museum Store Discount Day

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

December 9: * Lincoln Corral of Westerners

December 16: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

"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 11 January 2005

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