Lawrence J. Sommer became director in 1992.
He presided over the 1993 groundbreaking for a new visitor center
at the Chimney Rock National Historic Site, which the Society
had administered since 1940.
Funds to construct the Ethel and Christopher
J. Abbott Visitor Center at Chimney Rock, which opened in the
summer of 1994, were provided through donations to the Nebraska
State Historical Society Foundation.
In 1994 the legislature clarified the Society's
status as a state agency, part of the final settlement of a dispute
with the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma over the reburial of skeletal
remains and cultural objects the Society excavated from archeological
sites in the 1920s and 1930s. Governor E. Benjamin Nelson signed
the bill on March 10. (Left to right): Society President Jan
McMullen, State Senator DiAnna Schimek, Governor Nelson, Director
Donations to the Historical Society Foundation
enabled the Society to construct the Gerald R. Ford Conservation
Center, which opened in Omaha in 1995. Professional conservators
work in modern laboratories to stabilize, repair, or restore
historical artifacts, including documents, textiles, and metal
objects, such as the silver service from the battleship, USS
In 1998 a digital imaging laboratory opened
at the Ford Center, making the Society a national leader in the
field. Digital imaging often recovers new information from photographs,
objects, or documents, and makes the data accessible to the public
via websites and other electronic media.
The Nebraska History Museum opened the History
Adventure Center, an interactive exhibit for children, in 1997.
The 2002-03 reconstruction of the 1874 Cavalry
Barracks at Fort Robinson was funded by legislative appropriations
and donations to the Historical Society Foundation. The barracks
was the site of the tragic 1879 Cheyenne Outbreak, when Dull
Knife's people escaped in a desperate bid to return to their
Rendering by Robert Hanna,
The Society frequently collaborates with
other state agencies on projects to preserve and interpret Nebraska
A 1997 project with the Mexican American Commission
highlighted the contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans
to state history.
A survey of historic bridges by the State
Historic Preservation Office, funded through the Nebraska Department
of Roads, led to publication of a history of Nebraska bridges.
Since 1995 the Society and the Nebraska Game
and Parks Commission have cooperated to present a biannual history
conference at Fort Robinson.
The Society continues to publish staff research,
often with funds provided by the Society Foundation. The second
of a two-volume history of Fort Robinson came out in 2002.