A Story of Public/Private Partnership
The Nebraska History Museum (NHM), the state’s history museum, has served visitors at 131 Centennial Mall North in downtown Lincoln since 1983. Its exhibits and programming encourage visitors to better understand our shared heritage, identity and future as citizens of Nebraska. The museum hosts more than 25,000 visitors each year, including thousands of Nebraska students, families, youth groups, adult tours, and others wishing to garner knowledge of the history of Nebraska and its people. It serves many thousands more online via its website, online catalog, audio/video and social media offerings.
In 2013, the State of Nebraska allocated $8 million in public funds for a full renovation of the NHM building systems. The renovation includes new HVAC, plumbing, electrical and alarm systems, new elevators, new interior finishes for walls, ceilings and floors, and new general and exhibits lighting. Although the NHM building had provided exhibits, student programming and artifact collections storage for more than 30 years, the repurposed building had never been updated for fire and life safety requirements and was out of compliance with ADA codes. The renovation, now in progress, is scheduled for completion in early 2016.
The NSHS pledged to raise an equal amount in private funds for exhibits and interpretive facilities in the renovated NHM for the state’s public investment of $8 million.
New Exhibits and History Learning Center
In strengthening the state’s commitment and keeping its pledge, NSHS is planning four museum projects to serve Nebraska schoolchildren, families, and visitors from around the world:
“There is No Place Like Nebraska” Entrance Exhibit
Visitors arriving at the Nebraska History Museum should be drawn into a sensory experience that clearly evokes Nebraska and its people. The north end of the NHM lobby with its 14-foot ceiling will feature large objects, visuals, and audiovisual devices and techniques, augmented by a large walk-on topographical map of Nebraska. Visitors will know they are in Nebraska and will be primed to learn more about this place and its peoples.
History Learning Center
Imagine an active, intriguing space where learners of all ages can explore firsthand evidence of our past. The History Learning Center will offer hands-on learning through engagement with artifacts, person-to-person, and multigenerational family experiences. Sound and lighting control, design that encourages visitor focus, feedback mechanisms and interaction between museum teachers and visitors will support all modes of learning in this 2,000+ sq. ft. educational space.
Nebraska Sesquicentennial Exhibit
Nebraska will commemorate 150 years of statehood in 2017. The complex Civil War-era story of how we became the Union’s 37th state on March 1, 1867 will be revealed in a 4,000 sq. ft. exhibit to be installed in early 2017. “Nebraska: The 37th State” will use artifacts, documents, interactivity and audiovisual components to attract visitors to NHM during the Sesquicentennial year. It will also engage the state’s civic, education, cultural, and business leaders through related programming and activities.
The path to statehood and our continued journey as part of “these United States” will serve as a tool for civics and history education for Nebraska school classes from 4th grade through college.
“Faces and Voices in Place and Time: The 12,000 Year Story of Nebraska” Permanent Exhibit
All permanent exhibits at the NHM – the presentation of the 12,000 years of people, places and change that make up Nebraska history – had to be removed during the renovation in order to install vapor barriers and insulation and to abate asbestos-containing fireproofing. As a result, Nebraskans have a special opportunity to develop a new, interactive, permanent exhibit designed to excite visitors of all ages and to relate directly to the educational standards and curriculum needs of the schools in Nebraska.
Firsthand experiences with historical objects and stories strengthen students’ sense of identity and belonging and create vivid memories. Whether Nebraska is viewed by our youth as the middle of nowhere or the center of many things – a place to leave or a place to grow – can depend on how we tell the stories of our shared heritage in a very special geographic place and our connection to the larger stories of the United States.
The total cost for all of these improvements to the Nebraska History Museum is $5,430,000.