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NSHS Volunteer News

September/October 2003



opening photo
On September 27, 1953, Governor Robert Crosby dedicated the Society's new building. To his right are Nathan J. Gold, Society President James E. Lawrence, Superintendent James C. Olson, and Robert Taft of the University of Kansas.

Dr. James C. Olson, superintendent of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1946 to 1956, will be the honored guest at the Society's 125th annual meeting and anniversary celebration, September 26. Olson was superintendent when the Society's new building was dedicated at 1500 R Street fifty years ago on September 27, 1953, and guided the building's planning and construction. Opening the new building (today called the Headquarters Building) realized a dream that had motivated the Society's leaders since the organization's founding in 1878.

During his tenure at the Society, Olson began the "Historical Newsletter," the "Out of Old Nebraska" newspaper columns (today's "Nebraska Timeline"), and presided over the opening of the Society's first branch museum at Fort Robinson. After leaving the Society, Olson joined the history faculty at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska, and went on to become dean of the graduate college. He left Lincoln to lead the University of Missouri Kansas City campus, and later became the president of the University of Missouri system. He is the author (among other books) of the 1955 History of Nebraska, now in a third edition (1999) revised by Dr. Ronald C. Naugle.

Please join us September 26 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Society, the fiftieth anniversary of the R Street building, and recognize Dr. James C. Olson for his lifelong contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history.

 Volunteer Spotlight on Emily Griffing

photo of Emily Griffing
Fascinating, energetic, and well educated -- those are the words (for me anyway) that best describe Emily Griffing. In 1988, between Christmas and New Year's, Emily took a vow that she would start volunteering, and she continues today to volunteer every Wednesday afternoon at the Society's Library/Archives Division. As someone who has always had an interest in learning, she started her volunteer work organizing the Macdonald photographic collection. Emily described Macdonald as a "progressive photographer," whose work focused on Lincoln.

Other projects that Emily has accomplished at NSHS, include assigning subject headings to the Society's postcard collections -- which includes postcards from all ninety-three counties. The assignment of subject headings is incredibly valuable in making collections useful to researchers. For example, a postcard may showcase a schoolhouse in Worms, Nebraska. The subject heading information would include: education, buildings, and Worms. So you can image the amount of detail and work that went into the project.

Emily indicates that the best thing about volunteering at NSHS is "you learn about the stuff you have here, and helping people get things done gives me personal satisfaction." She became familiar with NSHS collections "when I worked at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln library system."

Upon graduation from Hay Springs High School, "I came to Lincoln on a regents scholarship, and received my Bachelor of Science degree in education." Emily taught one year at Waco, and then went to work with the UN-L library system. Following her work at UN-L, she worked with the Lincoln Public School system for seventeen years in the elementary school media center.

My reason for choosing "energetic" as a word that describes Emily is based on a question about where else she volunteers. The following explanation should help.

Emily went on to say that "on some Saturdays and weekends I volunteer for Volunteers Intervening for Equity (assisting individuals with financial support), and I care for my grandchildren." If this isn't energetic I don't know what is. When I asked Emily about her philosophy on volunteering she said, "Volunteer and get busy -- see what the rest of the world is doing."

Emily and her husband Dale enjoy traveling, and reading newspapers. Dale is retired from the Lincoln Journal-Star, and served as an editor in the editorial department of Stars and Stripes. I told Emily that I admired her energy and her continued love for learning.

According to Emily, volunteering has affected her life in this way -- "Having worked in a library, I was steeped in knowledge, and I wanted the learning process to continue." Emily, you have set an example of how education can benefit us all, and bring us life's fascinating possibilities.

-- Deb McWilliams

Zebulon Pike and the Pawnees

On September 29, 1806, Lt. Zebulon Pike persuaded the chief of the Republican Pawnees to lower the Spanish flag flying over his village and replace it with the Stars and Stripes. This was no mean feat for Pike and his party of only twenty-two men. Pike's bedraggled soldiers could hardly have impressed the Pawnees by comparison with the pomp and pageantry of the three-hundred-man Spanish army that had recently visited the village, flags flying and drums rolling. Although Pike knew the village, located along the Republican River, now lay in U.S. territory as a result of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the Indians were oblivious to such geopolitical realities. Nevertheless Pike's visit marked a tenuous beginning for U.S. government efforts to assert authority over this vast, new possession.

That Pike's council with the Pawnees was a significant event in Great Plains history is beyond dispute. What has been disputed, however, is the location of the village Pike visited. For many years, it was believed to be a Pawnee village just south of the Nebraska-Kansas state line near Republic. In 1901 the state of Kansas erected a granite marker authenticating that site as the one where Pike caused the Spanish flag to be lowered.

This claim went unchallenged until the 1920s, when A. T. Hill of Hastings asserted he had located the true site of the Pike Pawnee village near Guide Rock, Nebraska. Archeological work, along with additional research in Pike's journals and comparisons of mileage and topography, prompted Nebraska to claim the Pike village and a "war between Kansas and Nebraska" played itself out in the publications of the two states' historical societies. By the 1930s scholars began to agree that the Nebraska village was the correct one and the Guide Rock site has subsequently been accorded National Historic Landmark status.

To read more about Pike's expedition, his visit to the Pawnees, and the controversy over the location of the village, see Nebraska History 10 (July-September 1927), which provides both the Nebraska and Kansas points of view; and Donald Jackson, "Zebulon Pike and Nebraska," Nebraska History 47 (December 1966).

Although the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation owns and preserves the Pike Pawnee village site near Guide Rock, there is no museum or visitor center there. The Pawnee village site near Republic, Kansas, features a modern interpretive center operated by the Kansas State Historical Society. That museum will be one of the stops on the Oct. 9-10 fall bus tour for Society volunteers and members. If you haven't made your reservation don't delay, as space is limited.

--Jim Potter

October 9-10 NSHS Bus Tour Update

At press time, some openings remained for the Society's October 9-10 bus tour to Kansas museums, but they were filling fast. It's possible that a few seats will remain after the August 29 deadline. Everyone is welcome. If you are interested in taking the tour, call Lana at 402-471-3272 for the latest information.

Brown Bag Lectures

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. So bring your lunch and enjoy the lecture! The September and October programs are as follows:

September 18: Brown Bag Lecture, "A Soldier's Daily Routine," by Tom Buecker, NSHS curator, Fort Robinson Museum. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

October 16: Brown Bag Lecture, "Recovered Views," by John Carter, NSHS senior research associate. Discussion of the photographic images currently attributed to African American photographer John Johnson and the mysteries surrounding the collection and the photographer's identity. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, Fifteenth and P Streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

Program: "Getting to the Source: NSHS Research Materials"

Attention volunteers! You are invited to the upcoming volunteer program on Wednesday, September 10, at the Historical Society Capitol View Room, 1500 R Street, Lincoln. Ann Billesbach, from the Library/Archives staff, will present the program entitled, "Getting to the Source: NSHS Research Materials."

The program will start with coffee at 10:00 a.m., and the program will follow at 10:30. RSVP to Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955 regarding your attendance, or if you have any questions.

NSHS Website News

As part of the Society's yearlong 125th birthday celebration, one of our goals was to improve our website. Several important changes and additions have been accomplished.

Check out the new additions and improvements:

We value your opinion and would appreciate your response to our additions and improvements. Please contact us at to share your comments.

RECOVERED VIEWS Premiers September 26, 2003

children photo
Recovered Views: African American Portraits, 1912-1925,
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, will open to the public as part of the NSHS 125th anniversary celebration September 26. From 7:00 to 9:00 P.M. members are invited to the Museum of Nebraska History at Fifteenth and P Streets to view the stunning images that document life in a vibrant black community, a society rarely depicted in any medium.

The photographs are attributed to John Johnson, son of a black Civil War veteran and a lifelong resident of Lincoln. The images have been generously loaned to NSHS by Art McWilliams, representing the McWilliams Family, and Tom Kaspar of Lincoln and Helen Patrick Seward of Omaha. Ruth Greene Folley donated family portraits by the same photographer to the Society, some of which are also included in the exhibit.

These important images will be on exhibit at the NSHS Museum of Nebraska History through January 11, 2004, after which they will tour nationally through ExhibitsUSA, a division of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Special thanks goes to The Omaha Chapter of the Links, Inc., Mike Seacrest, Dr. John Davis, Wells Fargo, and the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation for their support of this exhilarating look at a little-recorded aspect of our state's past.

Indian on horseback logo
Anniversary Sale at the Museum Store

NSHS Society members will receive a 20 percent discount on merchandise at Society museum stores during our eighteenth anniversary sale the week of September 21-27.

A few ideas from the Museum Store to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Nebraska State Historical Society:

The image of the ledger horse shown above is taken from the State Historical Society's museum collection and is featured on these items.

New Faces

Tijana Antonic, Ford Conservation Center

Jennifer Becic, archeology

Erica Corwin, library/archives

Fae Dunn, Neligh Mill

Justin Manley, administration

Arlo McKee, archeology

Jedediah Miller, Neligh Mill

Laurel Miller, Neligh Mill

Andy Moore, archeology

Mark Nelson, archeology, administration

Matt Stebbing, archeology

Anna Walter, library/archives

Calendar of Events
September/October 2003

September 2003

September 18: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

September 23: First Day of Autumn
All day!!

October 2003

October 9-10: *NSHS Bus Tour

October 13: Columbus Day Observed

October 17: Brown Bag Lecture
12:00 noon, Lincoln

October 26: Daylight Savings Time Ends
Set your clocks back one hour.

October 31: Holloween
Eat lots of candy!!

(*Location other than the Museum of Nebraska History)

125th logo

"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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