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NSHS Volunteer News

September / October 2005

 Volunteer Spotlight on Sherry Melecki

Sherry Melecki - a Texan turned Nebraskan and a devoted museum store volunteer - came to the NSHS thirteen years ago. Sherry and her husband would bring their daughters, Meredith and Sarah, to the museum frequently. She then saw a notice in the newspaper - the NSHS needed docents. Because Sherry grew up in Texas, she thought being a docent would be a good way to learn more about Nebraska history.

So, you might ask, how is it that someone who wanted to be a docent winds up as a volunteer in the Lincoln museum store? In the fall of 2000 Sherry went through the docent training, but at the time, tours weren't provided on Fridays, and that was the day she could volunteer. Not one to let this be an obstacle, she expressed an interest in the museum store, and we have been fortunate to have her talents there ever since.

Sherry really enjoys meeting and greeting people who come into the store - from every state and many foreign countries. When teachers come into the store Sherry is pleased and impressed with their excitement about Nebraska history. The teachers appreciate the store for its wonderful resources, and opportunities to make the classroom more interesting.

At St. Paul Methodist Church, where Sherry works as the director of Adult and Small Group Ministries, she depends on volunteers to help get things accomplished. She said, "I respect the volunteers, and I want to have the same kind of pleasure that I think my volunteers are getting from me and their volunteer experience at St. Paul." Last winter she organized a scavenger hunt at the Museum of Nebraska History for St. Paul members. It was so popular the participants wanted to do it monthly.

One of Sherry's other interests includes "scrapbooking." She recently returned from a trip to Australia, where her oldest daughter, Meredith, is working on her master's degree at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia. Sherry is also making a scrapbook for her youngest daughter, Sarah, who will be graduating from Lincoln East, and plans to pursue a law degree and Ph.D. in psychology. Sherry's husband Tom is the vice president of the National Student Loan Corporation. Sherry holds a bachelor of arts in English and history from Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas, and a master's degree in educational administration and student personnel from Texas Tech University.

I asked Sherry how her family became engaged in volunteer activities. She indicated that her whole family is very involved in volunteering. Meredith volunteers in Australia. Her parents volunteered a lot and it has just been a part of their lives, very fulfilling. "Our daughters saw us volunteering and they both volunteered when they were in elementary school." No matter what Sherry's original volunteer interest was, we are pleased to have her as a key volunteer in the store and at the NSHS!

Save the Date: October 14, 2005 Friday Night With Fred and the NSHS Annual Members' Meeting Watch your mailbox  for futher details!

Moving the Capital (or is it the Capitol?)

One conundrum that writers often face is the distinction between capitol (the building) and capital (the seat of government). According to one early Nebraska legislator, confusion over the meaning of the two words threatened to derail efforts to relocate the seat of Nebraska government in 1867.

From 1855 until statehood was achieved in 1867, Omaha was the capital of Nebraska Territory. This reality continually outraged legislators and other Nebraskans from south of the Platte River, who felt political chicanery by Omaha politicians and speculators had deprived the South Platters of their rightful claim to this prize. Although the area south of the Platte had the larger population, Territorial Governor Thomas B. Cuming had drawn the legislative districts to give those living north of the Platte a majority. The North Platters were thus able to turn back all efforts to relocate the capital during the territorial years. The political balance changed, however, with the ascendancy of the Republican Party during the Civil War and the election of the first state legislature, which had a South Platte majority. The first state governor, David Butler, was also from south of the Platte and could be counted on to support capital relocation.

One of Butler's first official acts was to call the state legislature into special session on May 16, 1867, to get the new state up and running. Removal of the capital from Omaha was high on the list of things to do. The South Platte majority in both houses of the legislature had the votes to effect removal, but the lack of a dictionary and the idiosyncrasies of the English language had them scratching their heads, according to William M. Hicklin, a representative from Otoe County. He recalled the story in connection with an 1892 reunion of members of the first state legislature, and his tale appeared in volume five of the Nebraska State Historical Society Publications (1893).

According to Hicklin, two days were required to draft the relocation bill because none of the legislators from the South Platte region knew which of the words, capital or capitol, referred to the town and which to the building. Obviously, the bill's intent was to relocate the seat of government, "the capital," not merely the building, "the capitol." Not a single dictionary was to be found among the legislators from south of the Platte and no one in Omaha would lend them one, because Omahans opposed removing the capital.

Some of the South Platte members were adamant that it was the capitol that was going to be removed, but they grew suspicious when Omaha legislators agreed with them. Finally Hicklin telegraphed J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska City, who replied, "Ask the Omaha fellows and then spell it the other way. Keep your eyes open." With that, Hicklin and the others concluded that, indeed, it was the capital that they wanted to move, and the bill was drafted with the proper spelling to accomplish that goal. It passed June 14, 1867, and capital commissioners Governor David Butler, Secretary of State Thomas P. Kennard, and Auditor John Gillespie proceeded to select the village of Lancaster (renamed Lincoln) as Nebraska's state capital. A new capitol building was built in Lincoln, and the legislature convened there for its 1869 session.

-- Jim Potter

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. We invite you to bring your lunch and enjoy the lecture! The September and October programs are as follows:

September 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "A Nebraska Institution: The Standard Oil Company of Nebraska," presented by Bob Puschendorf.  The story of oil-giant John D. Rockefeller and the great Standard Oil Company has become one of fame, notoriety, and legend in American history. Less well known is Standard Oil as an independent Nebraska company and its marketing of petroleum products that paralleled the arrival of the automobile in the state.

Bob Puschendorf is associate director for the Nebraska State Historical Society and serves as deputy state historic preservation officer. He has retraced the route of the historic Meridian Highway through Nebraska and conducted fieldwork on historic places associated with highway development and the automobile in Nebraska. His research on both the history of the Standard Oil Company in Nebraska and the commercial evolution of automobile filling stations has resulted in the nomination of several properties that are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

October 20: Brown Bag Lecture, "American Indian Stereotyping in Literature and the Arts," by Nancy Gillis, executive director, John G. Neihardt State Historic Site. Ste-reo-type\noun; a standardized picture, idea, attitude that represents an oversimplified, affective, uncritical and unrealistic judgment.

Stereotypical images abound in propaganda, advertising, cartoons, movie plots, and many other places. Adults can usually determine the difference between image and reality, however, children cannot without instruction; therefore one place stereotyping definitely does not belong is in children's literature and educational material, yet that is where most can be found. So how do we dispel the myriad incorrect images of Native Americans? Awareness may be the key. As author Michael Dorris put it, "'I' isn't for Indian; it is often for Ignorance." Combining both "in your face" and very subtle imaging from a variety of materials, Gillis explores their usage and impact.

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 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.

Hour After Hour, Day After Day, Year After Year

The Nebraska State Historical Society volunteers are the best! In fiscal year 2004-2005 Society volunteers contributed 8,007 hours. NSHS volunteers have always been an important part of the Society's work since our founding in 1878. Volunteers spend hours, days, and even years to help the Society fulfill its mission to collect, preserve, and open to all the histories, we share. Just a few of the contributions include:

This listing features only a small portion of the commitment made by the NSHS volunteers. The Board of Trustees and staff applaud your commitment and sincerely thank you for your continued and dedicated service to the NSHS.

Indian on horseback logo



Diamonds, pearls, rubies - well, it's not exactly what you are thinking. The NSHS museum stores don't sell gemstones, but we certainly carry other great gems. The NSHS museum stores are having a twentieth anniversary celebration, September 20-25, and want you to get a gem of a deal. The sale will include twenty percent savings on items at each NSHS museum store. Internet and museum store catalog shoppers can place orders by calling the Lincoln museum store at 402-471-3447 during the week of the sale.

Museum stores celebrating the anniversary are 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); the Neligh Mill State Historic Site, Neligh (402-887-4303); and the Senator George W. Norris State Historic Site, McCook (308-345-8484). Shoppers at the Ford Center or one of the historic sites, should call for hours or visit our website at


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


Making a Gift to the NSHS Foundation

Because of the Nebraska State Historical Society's need for private funding, the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation was incorporated in 1942 as a public, nonprofit, 501c(3) organization. The Foundation's purpose remains the same today: to solicit, receive, and manage gifts of cash and property in support of the acquisition, preservation, and exhibition of Nebraska's historical treasures. The Foundation's Board of Trustees carefully manages the Foundation assets to help ensure Nebraska's history will be accessible for future generations.

How can you make a gift in support of Nebraska history? The Nebraska State Historical Society is continually searching for pieces of Nebraska's past and for ways to share Nebraska's rich history with others. The Foundation assists the Society in its ongoing endeavor to broaden and strengthen its work as publisher, explorer, and guardian over historical sites and artifacts throughout Nebraska by securing additional funding.

For assistance or information about how to make an outright gift through the Foundation, include the Foundation in your will, earn income from your gift with an annuity gift, establish a memorial fund, or designate support for a particular purpose, please contact:

Jackie Spahn, Executive Director
Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
Kinman-Oldfield, Suite 1010
128 North 13th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508-1565


New Face

Rachel Kreifels, museum store


"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 7 September 2005

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