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NSHS Volunteer News

November / December 2005

 Volunteer Spotlight on Bob Ridder

Nebraska is a big state and it takes about eight hours to cross it - at least the east- west route. A big state has much history to be shared with others. NSHS volunteer Bob Ridder, who drives from Omaha to Lincoln to volunteer, doesn't let the miles get in his way.

Bob became interested in the Nebraska State Historical Society in 2003, while on a tour at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center's digital imaging lab in Omaha. He was interested in the digital lab, but because we were transferring the lab from Omaha to Lincoln and couldn't use his help in that area, I asked if he would volunteer to help film the monthly Brown Bag lectures at the Museum of Nebraska History.

Bob agreed and, always seeing potential, he and NSHS staff member Lynne Ireland proposed to Cox Cable in Omaha the idea of airing the lectures. Cox Cable agreed, and once a lecture is taped in Lincoln, Bob delivers the tape to Omaha. Cox transfers the tape to a new master and airs the lecture every other Friday afternoon.

Bob, along with one of his friends, helped out during the recent Mountain Plains Museums Association conference in Omaha. The NSHS was heavily involved in the conference, and we thought conference participants would benefit from having someone from Omaha available to provide information about the area. Bob and his friend brought their own computer equipment and shared information about restaurants, local attractions, and how to get around. Conference participants really appreciated their help.

Ready for a new challenge, Bob is soon to start on an additional volunteer project for the NSHS. He will clean glass plate negatives, identify them, and sort them into categories. Once the negatives are sorted, Bob will start scanning them and ultimately put them on compact discs. His desire to pursue a new project is related to his interest in learning more about digital imaging and about Nebraska history. According to Bob, "History is only dull to people who don't understand it."

Bob has his own manufacturers' representative firm, Engineering Forgings and Fastener Products.  He rep-resents seven metal processing firms that provide cold, warm, and hot forgings or castings in aluminum, brass, or steel.  These products are used by a variety of customers in the assembly of their own products, such as inboard/outboard marine motors, heavy truck suspensions, and agricultural equipment. Bob doesn't travel as much as he did in the past due to the advantages of communication and over thirty-five years in the business.  On the day I interviewed him, and before 7:00 AM, Bob had a telephone conference with a company in Virginia, an e-mail exchange with engineers in Windsor, Ontario, and forwarded drawings to a firm in California. This type of activity wasn't possible years ago.

As we neared the end of the interview Bob commented, "Volunteering gives you an opportunity to experience things that you don't ordinarily do. When a person does something and sees the results that someone else is enjoying ­ there is some gratification." He and his wife volunteer as ushers at the Omaha Community Playhouse and the Omaha Performing Arts Center ­ the Orpheum and the new Holland Performing Arts Center. He is also active in the friends of the public library in Omaha.
It is fortunate for the NSHS that Bob enjoys meeting new people, gaining new skills, and knowledge, and is not letting a few Nebraska miles get in the way. Thanks Bob, for your enthusiasm, your spirit of continuing education, and your willingness to help us spread the word about Nebraska history.

-- Deb McWilliams


Indian on horseback logo
at the
Museum Store


The NSHS museum stores invite you
to shop with us during this holiday season!
Members will receive a twenty percent discount
on items purchased December 1-8.


Internet and museum store catalog shoppers can place orders by calling the Lincoln museum store at 402-471-3447 during these dates.

The holiday discount applies at any of our museum stores, located at the Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln; the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, Omaha (402-595-1180); the Fort Robinson Museum, near Crawford (308-665-2919); the Chimney Rock National Historic Site near Bayard (308-586-2581); Neligh Mill State Historic Site, Neligh (402-887-4303); and the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site, McCook (308-345-8484).

Shoppers outside of Lincoln, shopping at the Ford Center or one of the historic sites, should call for hours or visit our website at Not all items can be found at all of our museum stores; however, if you call the Lincoln museum store we will be able to locate the item(s) for you.


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


"Saving Nebraska's Treasures: Preventive Conservation for Families, Museums, and Libraries" Project Funded

Recent catastrophic events have raised awareness of the importance of caring for family and community treasures. Nebraska has more than six hundred museums, historical societies, and libraries, with few training opportunities for staff and volunteers. Thanks to a $249,837 grant awarded to the Nebraska State Historical Society, families, museums, and libraries across the state will learn more about how to save Nebraska's material heritage. The Partnership for a Nation of Learners, a collaboration of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services and the nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting, announced its first-ever community collaboration grants, and Nebraska was one of only seven projects to receive funding. The Nebraska State Historical Society will partner with Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and the Nebraska Library Commission to create resources families, museums, and libraries can use to preserve their heritage. Community workshops, a television program to be broadcast on the statewide NET network, and a website will feature "how-to's" from professionals at the Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center and the Nebraska Library Commission, and will provide practical and effective methods to help ensure artifacts, photographs, and documents survive into the future.

For further information visit or



The Museum of Nebraska History will be decked out in its holiday finery from Tuesday, November 22, to Tuesday, January 3. An animated Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will greet visitors on the museum's first floor near a 1950s aluminum tree lit by a revolving color wheel. The Carson Parlor will depict an 1860s Nebraska Territorial Christmas, complete with tabletop tree, toys, and gifts. The World War II living room, the Goehner Brothers General Store, and the sod house will also feature seasonal decorations. Museum hours are 9:00-4:30, Tuesday-Friday, and 1:00-4:30, Saturday and Sunday.


Victorian Holidays Past

The Thomas P. Kennard House, a Nebraska State Historical Society historic site at 1627 H Street in Lincoln, will celebrate Victorian Holidays Past, featuring Victorian toys, decorations, and historic photographs, Monday, November 28, through Friday, December 30. The house will be open Monday through Friday by appointment. Regular admission will be charged. Nebraska State Historical Society members are free. There will be a free open house on Sunday, December 11, from 1 to 5. Also that afternoon the Ferguson House, 700 South Sixteenth Street, and the Atwood House, 740 South Seventeenth Street, in the same neighborhood, will be decorated for the holidays and visitors will be welcome, 1-5, with no admission charged. For additional information on the open house and Victorian Holidays Past at the Kennard House call 402-471-4764. The Ferguson House number is 402-471-5409. The Atwood House number is 402-438-4567.


Brown Bag Lectures -- Please Join Us

The Brown Bag Lecture Series (a history forum) is presented on the third Thursday of each month, at noon, in the Blackman auditorium, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets (131 Centennial Mall North), Lincoln. We invite you to bring your lunch and enjoy the lecture! The November and December programs are as follows:

November 17: Brown Bag Lecture, "Topics in Conservation." Join staff members from the Nebraska State Historical Society's Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha for topical information about conservation projects in the state.12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

December 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "Treasures from the Collections." Tom Mooney, curator of manuscripts, Deb Arenz, senior museum curator, and Paul Eisloeffel, curator of photographs and audio/visual collections, will present an entertaining program focusing on some of the "treasures" found in the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

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 p.m., Fridays at 5:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 6:00 p.m.

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 p.m. 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.


Omaha Easter Tornado Ranks High on Nebraska Disaster List

Fortunately Nebraska has never experienced a natural disaster of the magnitude of the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes. Nevertheless floods, blizzards, and tornadoes have caused significant loss of life and extensive property damage in the state.

Among the worst of Nebraska's natural disasters has to be the Easter Sunday Tornado that struck Omaha and other Nebraska and Iowa communities on March 23, 1913. Although casualty counts vary, estimates place the death toll in Omaha-Council Bluffs as high as 140, most in Omaha. Eighteen were killed in the village of Yutan. Thousands were left homeless. Property damage exceeded six million dollars.

The local forecast for Omaha on March 23 was "unsettled and warmer with snow or rain today." The day began balmy, but late in the afternoon the storm formed, then struck first in Cass and Saunders counties before hitting Omaha about 5:45 p.m. The nearly half-mile-wide twister cut a swath through the Omaha residential district before crossing the Missouri River and turning south into Council Bluffs.

Later that year author and journalist Thomas Russell published a book entitled Story of the Great Flood and Cyclone Disasters: America's Greatest Calamity, which related the stories of a major flood in the Ohio Valley and the Omaha tornado. The book included numerous accounts from Omaha of death, destruction, and harrowing experiences, of which the following are examples.

Grace Slabaugh, a promising young pianist, was taken from the wreck of her father's home with severed tendons in her wrist. She coolly watched the doctor sew up the wound, knowing she would never play again. On the farm of Otto Hoot, the tornado lifted Hoot's horse and buggy into a tree twenty feet from the ground, but the horse fell free, landed on its feet, and ran away.

An iron tombstone weighing fifty pounds was found four miles from its home in the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. Half a dozen houses were hurled against railroad cars filled with coal, and the heating stoves from the houses started fires in the coal that burned for several days. A splinter from one of the houses had been driven through the side of a coal car "so deeply it could not be removed." A man named Kreidmer staggered from his destroyed house, but his wife and two babies had been carried off by the storm. "The man was crazed with grief and threw himself into the mire and muck" and could not be consoled.

After the tornado passed, numerous fires broke out, started by the stoves in the buildings. "As the dead were carried to the morgues, and the maimed moaned from the wreckage, and the yellow skies glowed with the carmine reflection of hundreds of burned homes, it was recalled that it was Easter Sunday!" The NSHS library has various materials relating to the 1913 tornado, including pictorial albums as well as microfilm of the Omaha newspapers.

While more recent Nebraska tornadoes, such as those in Omaha in 1975, Grand Island in 1980, and Hallam in 2004 have brought major property damage and some loss of life, advances in weather forecasting, storm alerts via radio and television, and modern building construction, make it unlikely that future Nebraska tornadoes will ever take a human toll as great as the Easter Tornado of 1913.

-- James E. Potter




November 17: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln

November 22: Museum Store Discount Day

November 22 - January 3

Holiday Exhibits at the Museum of Nebraska History, Lincoln


December 11: Holiday Open House
1 - 5 pm, Kennard House, Lincoln

December 15: Brown Bag lecture
12:00 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 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!

Volunteer News backissues


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Last updated 3 November 2005

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