NSHS 2016 Awards Luncheon Results

Guests gather for the NSHS 2016 Annual Awards Luncheon.

Guests gather for the NSHS 2016 Annual Awards Luncheon.

Nebraska “history makers” gathered for the Nebraska State Historical Society awards luncheon on Friday, October 14, at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln.

You can read about the award winners and their contributions to Nebraska history in the following paragraphs.



NSHS Board of Trustees President Katherine Endacott presented the Furnas award to Rhonda Seacrest.

The Robert W. Furnas Memorial Award recognizes outstanding contributions or assistance to the Nebraska State Historical Society in the form of either long-term service or a significant one-time contribution by an individual or organization. The 2016 Robert W. Furnas Memorial Award winner is Rhonda and the late James Seacrest.

Rhonda and her husband James underwrote the publication of Nebraska Post Office Murals: Born of the Depression, Fostered by the New Deal. They also underwrote the donation of the book to each library in Nebraska. In 2004, Jim Seacrest served as co-treasurer of the “Friends of Amendment One” group that supported a ballot initiative that cleared the way for the Nebraska Legislature to enact legislation to allow a temporary tax freeze on historic properties undergoing renovation. The Valuation Incentive Program projects represent private investments of millions of dollars and have been particularly valuable in preserving historic homes that contribute to Nebraska’s community identities. In 2012, the Seacrests provided financial support of the exhibition, The Illustrator’s Pencil: John Falter, from Nebraska to the Saturday Evening Post, at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln.

NSHS Board of Trustees President Katherine Endacott presented the award to Rhonda Seacrest.



NSHS Trustee Kim Elder presented the award to Jim Wigton, who accepted the award on behalf of Scott Wilson. Wilson was on a research trip to New Orleans with some of his students and unable to attend the awards luncheon.

The James C. Olson Memorial Award is given to a Nebraska teacher who epitomizes the best Nebraska educators have to offer in engaging, inspiring, and guiding their students to discover, enjoy, and learn from the fascinating and important histories we share. The award is limited to K-12 teachers who encourage and support their students in endeavors such as National History Day, who use documents, oral history, or place in classroom projects, or who employ other imaginative or innovative methods to make Nebraska history come alive for their students. The 2016 James C. Olson Memorial Award winner is Scott Wilson.

Scott has established a multiyear project for Advanced Placement history students. This project has produced biographies and videos of Omaha Central High School alumni veterans who have died in combat.  He has worked with National History Day and other Nebraska-focused student research. The students interviewed families, did research, and even included videos for the presentations about their soldiers. There were a total of ninety stories researched.  Last year Mr. Wilson led a group of his students to the grave sites of some of the veterans in Normandy, the Netherlands and Belgium. The students met the local families who tend the American graves, and presented them with the biographies. Often this was the first information the local families had about these soldiers. The students could see their efforts were well connected to the past. Other similar subjects have been researched by his students in his past twenty years of teaching. The projects often involved using the archives at the NSHS in Lincoln.

NSHS Trustee Kim Elder presented the award to Jim Wigton, who accepted the award on behalf of Scott Wilson. Wilson was on a research trip to New Orleans with some of his students and unable to attend the awards luncheon.



John Carter was a winner of the 2016 Addison E. Sheldon award.


Jim Potter was a winner of the 2016 Addison E. Sheldon award.

The Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award created in 1973, is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation in the field of Nebraska History. Individuals or organizations may qualify for the Sheldon Award for long-term contributions to Nebraska history or for an important one-time accomplishment. The 2016 Addison E. Sheldon Award winners are John Carter and Jim Potter.

Potter began work at the NSHS in 1967. Over the years he served variously as state archivist, editor of Nebraska History, and finally as senior research historian, working for the NSHS for nearly 49 years. Along the way he wrote and edited several books and dozens of scholarly articles. His most recent book, published just this spring, is called From Our Special Correspondent: Dispatches from the 1875 Black Hills Council at Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska. His depth of knowledge was legendary, and was always shared with generosity and good humor. He died unexpectedly in August 2016.

Carter worked for the NSHS for almost forty years. He served as photo curator, senior research folklorist and associate editor for the NSHS over his career. He authored several books and published numerous articles in both scholarly and popular journals. He was a scholar/consultant for many documentary films, including several produced by filmmaker Ken Burns. He was a well-known and much-requested speaker on almost any aspect of Nebraska. John was enthusiastic in his work and play, and had a deep and abiding love for the history and culture of Nebraska. He passed away after a long illness in July 2015.

NSHS Trustee Jim McKee gave John Carter’s award to his wife, Ann Billesbach. He presented Jim Potter’s award to his wife, Gail DeBuse Potter.



Bob Puschendorf presented the Nebraska Preservation award to Ariel Roblin of KETV, who accepted for John Drain, Hearst Properties Inc.

The Nebraska Preservation Award was created in 1988 to recognize significant achievements in historic preservation in Nebraska by an individual or organization. The award is given for one of two categories: “brick and mortar projects,” or “individual or group achievements.”

By 1971 the Omaha Burlington Station at South Tenth and Pacific no longer served general passenger traffic.  The building became vacant in 1974 when Amtrak relocated their facilities.  After 40 years of being vacant, the building was purchased by Hearst Television Inc of New York City to become studios and headquarters for KETV- Channel 7, Omaha’s ABC affiliate.  They completed the rehabilitation and moved into their new high-tech studio and offices in late 2015.

The Burlington Station was built in 1898 to the design of Thomas Rogers Kimball, Nebraska’s preeminent architect.  In 1930, the station was substantially remodeled and redesigned to its present appearance.  The 48,000 square foot building was renovated at a cost of $27.5 million in 2015.  Federal and state historic preservation tax credits were used to assist in rehabilitation.  The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Bob Puschendorf presented the award to Ariel Roblin of KETV, who accepted for John Drain, Hearst Properties Inc.



Rob Bozell presented the Asa T. Hill award to Curt Peacock.

The Asa T. Hill Memorial Award was created by the NSHS Foundation in 1975 “to recognize an individual or organization for an outstanding research project or interpretation of an archeological site or sites in the field of Great Plains archeology.”

Curt’s first formal foray into archeology was as a crew member working at two Nebraska Culture lodge excavations and at the Nehawka Prehistoric Flint Quarries in Cass County.  These research projects sparked a life-long interest in Native American stone source studies and tool manufacturing.  His passion for Nebraska archeology continued over the course of four decades. His contributions have had a lasting impact.

Curt and NSHS archeologist Gayle Carlson published a report in 1975 titled Lithic Distribution in Nebraska which featured maps and descriptions of all the major sources of flint and other stone used by prehistoric peoples in Nebraska for 12,000 years.  The report is a standard for anyone researching stone tool technology and stone procurement in Nebraska.

After coming to NSHS on 6 June 1969, Curt helped build the popular Pawnee earthlodge replica and the buffalo products exhibit.  He meticulously researched, planned, drew, and then painted – on stitched-together animal hides – a 17-foot-long-replica of the original Spanish depiction of the 1720 massacre of Pedro de Villasur’s force by the Pawnee and allies.  These displays were among the most popular in the First Nebraskans gallery and were enjoyed by thousands of museum patrons.

Based on Gayle Carlson’s excavation, Curt made incredibly detailed architectural drawings of buildings at Fort Atkinson, Fort Robinson, Fort Kearny, Rock Creek Station and other sites. These proved informative not only to the archeological community, but also served as the basis for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission architects to accurately design building reconstructions at these wonderful state historic parks.  You can see his work at the Fort Atkinson visitor center by viewing his miniature models of the Fort complex of scattered buildings and the Western Engineer – the first steamboat to successfully ascend the Missouri River in 1819.  The Fort models are so detailed they even include tiny sheets flapping in the wind on tiny clothes lines!

Rob Bozell presented the award to Curt Peacock.



Brian Sarnacki received the Sellers award for “In the Biting Stage’: The 1955 Nebraska State Penitentiary Riots and Violent Prison Activism” from the Spring 2015 issue of Nebraska History.

The James L. Sellers Memorial Award was created in 1967. The award is given each year for the “best article” published in a volume of Nebraska History. This award is supported through the NSHS Foundation and Catherine Sellers Angle. Articles are evaluated on use of primary sources, quality of research and writing, and reader interest.

Brian Sarnacki is receiving this award for “In the Biting Stage’: The 1955 Nebraska State Penitentiary Riots and Violent Prison Activism” from the Spring 2015 issue of Nebraska History.

This year’s judges were John Calvert, Britta McEwen, and Adam Sundberg of Creighton University. Dr. Calvert writes: “We found the article to be a compelling and well written account of the violent disturbances, born out of prisoners’ grievances, that led to changes in the state’s correctional services.”

Brian Sarnacki grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in history from the University of Notre Dame and then continued studying history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he received a Master’s Degree. He currently lives in Omaha and works as a community learning specialist at Do Space, a one-of-a-kind community technology library.

Sarnacki was unable to attend the awards luncheon.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and congratulations to the award winners!


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Flashback Friday: Frontier Acres Museum and a Historian 4-Her


Hannah Spiehs with her award-winning 4-H Heritage Project.


Hannah Spiehs is an award-winning historian, animated storyteller, and a dedicated researcher of Nebraska history.

She’s also an 11-year-old sixth grader at Aurora Middle School in Hamilton County.

Hannah was the recipient of a Nebraska State Historical Society Certificate of Achievement at the 2016 Nebraska State Fair. Her project, called Frontier Acres Museum, 1969-1989, is a photo display of postcards from the Frontier Acres Museum near Spencer, Nebraska, in Boyd County.

Hannah’s interest in the project sprung from her hobby of collecting postcards.

“My grandma said she had some postcards from our family’s museum for me, and I was like, ‘What museum?’” Hannah said.

Hannah’s great-grandparents, Arthur and Mary Boettcher, collected pioneer-era machinery, clothes, and household items and displayed them in over twenty buildings across five acres north of Spencer. The museum was available to the public for a small fee and was open May to October.

The museum included pioneer houses, a train depot and caboose, a church, a one-room school house, a blacksmith shop, and an old-time photo shop, a general store, a log cabin, a sod house. Art also built a two-roomed treehouse specifically for children to play in.

Mindy Spiehs, Hannah’s mom, has many memories of Frontier Acres. She was one of twenty-one cousins and all but three lived in Spencer. The museum was their playground, and it had so many buildings that they could all pick one as their “own.”

“My grandparents really enjoyed children,” Mindy said, “And they wanted to preserve the pioneer way of life for them.”

“Because everything was changing from the way it used to be,” Hannah said.

Along with the buildings, the museum had a wide array of antique farm machinery and several dozen classic cars.

“Art fired up the steam engine every Sunday and blew the whistle,” Mindy said. She added that he was always encouraging children to get their hands on the artifacts.

“Grandpa let you wander around and look and if you picked up a bowl or something, he was like, ‘Play with it. Pretend you’re eating supper like a pioneer,’” Mindy said.

He passed this attitude down to his daughter and Hannah’s maternal grandmother, Carolyn Conroy.

“Grandma has the idea that you can have all these cool things, and they don’t do any good and aren’t any fun if they are sitting in a box,” Hannah said.

A postcard from Frontier Acres Museum, Spencer (Boyd County), Nebraska. 1969-1989

A postcard from Frontier Acres Museum, Spencer (Boyd County), Nebraska. 1969-1989

After Art and Mary passed away, the museum’s collections were sold off and many of the buildings were scattered throughout Nebraska and South Dakota. But Carolyn has gathered a few of the buildings, including the schoolhouse and two of the pioneer houses, for her grandchildren to enjoy.

They even decorate one of the houses for Christmas and spend time popping popcorn and reading “A Night Before Christmas” before the fire – the only source of heat because the house doesn’t have electricity.

“It’s always really dark in there so grandma always lights the old-fashioned oil lamps,” Hannah said.

Hannah, her brother, and her cousins play in the house frequently in the summer.

“And it’s pretty hot in summer. But worse is the grasshoppers,” Hannah said. “Grandma’s school is always fun because Grandma is always the teacher. You learn your ABCs in a fun way.”

“A whole other generation plays in her houses,” Mindy said. “We’re not sure who has more fun – Grandma or her grandkids.”

Gary and Carolyn Conroy live north of Spencer (on the farm where Art and Mary once lived) and love to show their houses to anyone who wants to stop and visit (and play).

Hannah enjoys playing with all of the antiques that fill the houses.

“There’s a box and you crank the handle and then put it up to your ear, and you have to spin the spinny thing,” Hannah said.

“It’s a rotary phone,” Mindy explained.

Hannah says the experience has given her a different perspective than many of her friends and classmates at school.

“Some of my friends say, ‘I can’t live without my iPod or my Xbox,’ and I’m like, ‘Technically, you could,’” Hannah said.

“Your friends haven’t got to experience hands-on history,” Mindy said. “Those kinds of things make history come alive to kids.”

Hannah said when she grows up she would like to be an inventor, actress, architect, and owner of a diner, candy and jokes shop. She is in Future Problem Solvers (FPS), is a brown belt in taekwondo, and has been running in one mile and 5K races with her mom this past year.

This was Hannah’s third heritage project and the third to earn a purple at the Nebraska State Fair. Her best advice for other 4-Hers who want to try out heritage projects is that you get out what you put in.

“If you really don’t like it or don’t put in any effort, you’ll just get a red or a white,” Hannah said. “If you don’t put any effort in it, you won’t get results.”

Hannah said she thinks of her best ideas “when my left eye is closed and I’m staring at my closet.”

She enjoyed adding to her family’s already impressive appreciation of history.

“We found out things we had forgotten,” Hannah said. “If you explore your family history, there’s going to be something strange and unusual.”


A postcard from Frontier Acres Museum, Spencer (Boyd County), Nebraska. 1969-1989



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5 Things Damaging Your Photographs

Your family’s heirloom photographs are special treasures. Taking proper care of them is an important responsibility. Here are a few things to watch for and suggestions on how to protect your family photographs.

Temperature & Humidity:

  • picture4Relative humidity is the amount of water in the air. It is the single most important environmental factor in the preservation of your family photographs. The ideal RH in an archive is 40%. This may be difficult to achieve in your home. Just remember, high levels (50%-100%) cause oxidation, fading, and spread of fungus and low levels (0-30%) can cause photos to become brittle and shrink unevenly. The best environment for your photographs avoids extreme fluctuations between high and low humidity levels.
  • Temperature is also a factor in preserving your heirloom photographs. Deterioration is the chemical breakdown of the photograph, and heat increases chemical reactions. The ideal temperature for archives is 60-65°F, but anything below 65°F, is no longer comfortable for people to work in for long periods of time. Keep temperatures as low as possible without raising RH and causing condensation when moved to a warmer environment.
  • What to do: It is important to create a stable environment. Avoid places without temperature control such as basements, attics, garages, barns, etc. Consistent temperature is important and storage places such as under beds and in interior closets are good options. Using proper storage and housing will also help insulate photographs from fluctuations in temperature and humidity.


  • 102400Light is just plain BAD. It causes images to fade and yellow. Damage caused by light is permanent. Ultraviolet (UV) light causes the most damage. While UV filters do offer some protection, they do not eliminate light damage. Some types of images are particularly light sensitive such as albumen prints, cyanotypes, and especially color images.
  • What to do: Display copies whenever possible. Scanning or photocopying cause little harm. Continued light exposure & handling cause much more damage. It is best for original photographs to be kept in the dark.
  • If you do display an original print, remember that the damage is permanent. Here are a few precautions you can take to help protect original photographs on display. Avoid direct sunlight and choose glass with UV protection. Select archival quality frame and mats. Also, monitor any fading that does occur.

Pests & other bad things:

  • picture6Insects, rodents and mold. Organic materials such as the gelatin, cellulose, and paper that make up photographs are tasty meals for insects, rodents and mold. An infestation or outbreak is often the result of poor storage conditions. Insects and mold breed in moist, dark spaces. Monitor your photograph collection for things that will eat your collection like rodents, mold and insects such as silverfish, firebrats, German cockroaches, furniture beetles and termites. Also, you should watch out for things that leave behind messes. Rodents and insects such as cockroaches, flies, spiders, wasps, etc. are often messy culprits.
  • What to do: Your best defense against pests is good housekeeping. Prevention is the best protection. Improve your storage conditions and keep the area clean. Monitor your collection and be on the lookout for tell-tale signs. If you think you have a problem, handle your photographs with care and protect yourself. Use sticky traps to identify species of insect. When in doubt, contact an expert, like the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center (Omaha, NE).

Poor Storage:

  • rg5806ph000001000002Create a safe, stable environment. You should choose storage locations that offer consistent temperature & humidity that are away from pests. Protect your photos from water damage. Whether flooding is caused by nature, broken pipes, leaking water heaters, or overflowing washing machines, water from any source can cause severe damage. So, pay close attention to storage locations. Impurities in the air can also speed up deterioration. Gases given off from wood, cardboard, newspapers, and some types of negatives can cause damage like fading, discoloration, and embrittlement . Solid particulates like dust, pollen and soot can cause scratches and damage to photographic surfaces.
  • What to do: Choose your storage location wisely. Look for water sources. Avoid fireplaces and cedar chests. Remove old newspapers. Store in proper photograph storage that provides support and protection. Good photographic storage will improve organization and aid in disaster recovery. Use only materials that have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) , that meet or exceed national standards and will not harm your photographs. This is not the same as “archival.” There is no standard or legal definition for the word archival. Manufacturers can use the word in advertising regardless of the quality of their product. PAT is the best indicator that has been manufactured to strict standards and are acid-free, lignin-free and unbuffered. When selecting an enclosure, choose the size closest to what you are storing. If it is too tight, it could damage the photograph when removed. And if it is too loose, the photograph could slide around damaging corners and scratching the emulsion.
  • rg5788ph000003000002Paper vs. Plastic Enclosures. Both paper and plastic enclosures offer protection to your photographs. Here are a few tips to consider when choosing. Plastic might be a better choice over paper for damaged, weak, thin, or brittle photographs. Also, plastic is good for prints that are often handled or looked at. Paper enclosures are a better choice for nitrate or acetate negatives that need to off-gas. Poorly processed prints should also be stored in paper.
    • Paper Enclosures: The enclosures should be chemically stable, smooth, non-abrasive and pass the PAT test. Typically, unbuffered paper is recommended for all photos, but new studies from the Image Permanence Institute show that buffered paper is also okay. Do not use glassine or magnetic albums. If you have photos in these magnetic photo albums, remove them immediately.
    • Plastic Enclosures: These enclosures should be chemically inert with no surface coatings and pass the PAT test. The main types include polyester, polypropylene and polyethylene.


  • picture2Improper handling causes the most harm. Even in the most ideal storage conditions, photos can still be damaged. Photographs are easily bent, torn, and cracked. Fingerprints damage emulsion and attract insects.
  • What to Do: Wear white cotton or latex/nitrile gloves. When picking up a photograph, use both hands and never pick up or hold photographs by the corners. Support the image if you turn it over. For very fragile items, use paper or mat board for extra support.
    • Use a soft brush to gently remove dust particles.
  • What NOT to Do: Do not attempt to clean or repair heirloom photographs yourself or allow anyone (even commercial photographers) not trained in photographic conservation to “restore” or repair your photographs. Consult a professional photograph conservator.
    • picture2Good intentions often cause more damage. Tears are best left unmended. Do NOT use tape, glue, rubber cement, staples, thumb tacks or anything else to “repair” your photographs. Torn photos should be placed in clear plastic sleeves.
    • Also, do not use rubber bands or paper clips to bind photographs together.
  • Labeling Photographs: Always label your photographs! Use proper names and avoid nicknames or titles (i.e.: John Smith and not “my father’s uncle”). Do not press too hard. Write on the back of the photo along the edge. Never write on the front.
    • Use a pencil! Pens can bleed through the paper and smear, especially during a disaster. We like woodless graphite pencils that can be found at most craft and art supply stores in either soft or extra soft. These pencils will even write on modern, resin-coated photographs.

For additional information on photo and other artifact preservation, visit Saving Your Treasures.

Karen Keehr
Photograph Curator
Nebraska State Historical Society

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Czech-American Community Loses Native Nebraskan and Researcher of Czech Heritage

by Cindy Drake, NSHS Library Curator


Margie Sobotka in June 2008

Margie Sobotka passed away in Redmond, WA on July 23, 2016 at the age of 93 years.  Her name is familiar to any Czech-American researcher with connections to Nebraska and in some cases other Czech-American communities in the Midwest. Her commitment to translating Czech-American publications to assist genealogists and historians brought her to the attention of the Czech Republic who conveyed upon her the Czernin Palace Memorial Bronze Medal in 2008 for her significant contributions to the progress of Czech-American relations.  Margie was responsible for over 30 publications that assisted genealogical researchers in researching their Czech-American families.  Her work rekindled American ties with their Czech homeland and helped them understand their Czech roots and heritage.

Margie Perina was born and raised in the Czech neighborhood of South Omaha. In the mid-1930s, her family moved to a farm outside of Bedford, IA.  She returned to Omaha at the start of WWII where she was employed at the Swift Company.  She married Rudie Sobotka, a farmer from northern Omaha, in August of 1947.  They moved to their farm near Irvington where they raised their only daughter.  They both took on additional jobs in the area during the next 35 years.

Her passion for genealogy research and particularly the Czech-Bohemian heritage of both herself and Rudie began after their daughter went to college.  It became her passion and “lead to authoring research articles and books, translating documents written in the Czech language, and giving lectures under the Eastern Nebraska Genealogy Society in Fremont, Nebraska and the Czechoslovak Genealogical International Society.”  Receiving the Czernin Palace Award in 2008 “was a pinnacle of her dedicated efforts for her contributions in Czech-Slovak genealogy and history, and for helping others to seek their own genealogical roots.” She was also the first recipient of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International’s Distinguished Achievement Award, presented to her in 1999.[1]

In the early 1990s Rudie and Margie sold their farm “and purchased an acreage with a house in the area around Elkhorn.  Rudie passed away in 2003, and Margie resided on the acreage until 2011 when she moved to the Seattle suburban area to be near her daughter and son-in-law.  She continued to be active even after she moved to assisted living in 2014.[2]


Margie pictured with the author in June 2008.

The following comments are from the presentation I gave when the Czech Consulate honored her in 2008.

In 1977 I started my career in the library at the Nebraska State Historical Society.  One of my job duties included assisting patrons in doing genealogical research whether it was in person or by mail.  My first mentors Paul Riley and Ann Reinert familiarized me with the best sources in our collections.  I soon learned that with the large ethnic population in our state there were certain sources that you automatically reviewed and with Czech-Americans, that source was Rose Rosicky’s book “A History of Czechs in Nebraska” written in 1929.  The book was greatly enhanced in 1976 when the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society reprinted it and it included an all-name index compiled by Mrs. Rudie Sobotka.  I was delighted to personally become acquainted with Margie during those early years.

As a charter member of the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society, Margie was instrumental in having the group reprint several Nebraska histories that included full-name indexes that had not previously been published with these titles.   These publishing efforts included the title that at the historical society we associate the most with Margie: “Nebraska, Kansas Czech Settlers, 1891-1895” completed in 1980.  With this book, she immortalized the work of Frank Mares, who recorded the early Czech settlers in 45 Nebraska counties and 11 Kansas counties for the “Hospodar.”  Mr. Mares recorded not only the names, but also the occupation, addresses and exact birthplace.  This valuable information for family historians could not be easily located today if it had not been for the translation work completed by Margie and her mother Mayme Perina.

Throughout the years, she has continued to amaze me with the translation work she has completed of Czech-American publications that have aided genealogists and historians.  Currently our library has at least 27 publications that are associated with Margie. They range from titles that she translated and published that contain deaths and obituaries from the “ Hospodar”, “Fraternal Herald”,” Denni Pokrok”, and the “Hlasatel”, to abstracting or indexing Czech histories, cemeteries, burial books, and passenger lists.  These publications have not only aided genealogists, but also Czech historians.  They will likely continue to be the major source for Czech research in Nebraska and in some cases for other states. 

Material that Margie transcribed was invaluable when we prepared a Czech exhibit in our museum that was on display in 1993 & 1994. She worked on projects with Joseph G. Svoboda, first archivist of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who established the Czech Heritage Collection at UNL.  She has also prepared numerous programs and articles on beginning Czech research that have aided researchers locally and nationally.  When CGSI held their annual meeting in Lincoln in 1999, Margie was one of the main speakers for Czech genealogical research.  She has always been generous to the historical society by donating copies of her own publications as well as those of other researchers. 

On behalf of the Nebraska State Historical Society, I congratulate Margie on this well deserved honor from a country that is acknowledging not only her efforts in assisting genealogical researchers of Czech American families, but also her commitment and devotion to sharing her Czech heritage.

With her passing, Nebraska has lost an invaluable Czech-American resident, and I have lost another friend who was an advisor to me for many years at the historical society.

[1] CGSI published their own tribute to Margie in “Nase rodina”, Quarterly of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, September 2016, Volume 28, Number 3, pp. 130-133.

[2] http://cascadememorial.com/obituary/156709/Marjorie-Sobotka/


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Wild Weather Wednesday: Blizzard Derails Train Car Near Wausa, 1915

Welcome to Wild Weather Wednesday. Every Wednesday, we post a photo from our collections depicting an extreme weather event from Nebraska’s past.

Nebraska has seen unseasonably warm temperatures this last week, but don’t forget: Winter Is Coming.


Derailed train car two miles west of Wausa (Knox County), Nebraska, after blizzard. February 2, 1915. RG2118-9-23-c

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Archives Month: 5 Tips for Locating Early District Court Cases

October is American Archives Month. NSHS Government Records Curator and State Archivist Gayla Koerting created 5 tips to help you locate early District Court Cases to help you with your research and genealogy.


Lancaster County District Court records at the NSHS Government Records Archives

  • Every county in Nebraska has a District Court
  • Early  cases, including divorces,  are located in District Court records
  • Early cases were recorded in oversize bound volumes that are double-sided, totaling  500 pages per volume
  • Consult the General District Court Index (plaintiff and defendant) for the citation &  page numbers from the Appearance Docket, Journal,  and Complete Record
  • Check county finding aids to determine if NSHS has the indexes or if the  index is still maintained by the district court in the county, http://nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/research/public/county_finding_aids/index.htm
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NEW Exhibit Open at Nebraska History Museum: The Strange and Wonderful Masks of Doane Powell


One set of 26 masks will be displayed October 10 through March 26; a second set of 30 masks will be displayed March 30 through July 9, 2017.

“In itself a mask is an ornament,” said Nebraska artist Doane Powell. “The photograph of a mask makes an interesting picture; but a mask worn, with movement, by the proper person, becomes a living art.”

Made primarily in the 1940s and 1950s, Powell’s strange and wonderful masks were used in theater productions, circus performances, movies and television, advertising campaigns, magazine illustrations, store window displays, and at social functions. Starting October 10, they will be displayed in a new Nebraska History Museum exhibit, The Strange and Wonderful Masks of Doane Powell, one of four new exhibits opening at the museum this fall.

A University of Nebraska alumnus, Powell spent twelve years as a cartoonist for the Omaha Bee. He eventually changed his artistic focus from political cartoons to masks. His skills for caricature were still evident in his new medium. His most popular masks were those of recognizable figures.

In his 1948 book, Masks and How to Make Them, Powell explained how he used “laminated paper” to create his masks. He joined three layers of unbleached wood pulp kraft paper with an adhesive, molding them over a facial sculpture of modeling clay on a rigid base. This method destroyed the underlying sculpture so each mask was one-of-a-kind.

When Powell died in 1951 at age 69, his apprentice Kari Hunt inherited many of his masks and continued to promote their use, most notably on the television show Masquerade Party (1952-1960). Hunt’s daughter, Karen Schnitzspahn, donated these masks and related archival materials to the NSHS in 2013. The NSHS’s Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha repaired damage and deterioration to the masks, restoring and stabilizing them for future generations.

This is an exhibit you’ll want to see twice. One set of 26 masks will be displayed October 11 through March 26; a second set of 30 masks will be displayed March 30 through July 9, 2017.


Conservation Technician Megan Griffiths and Assistant Objects Conservator Rebecca Cashman helped repair and preserve the Doane Powell masks for the exhibit that runs October 11 – July 9.

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Timeline Tuesday: Celery Growing in Nebraska

Caption: William Keller and his family stand in their celery field west of Kearney, Nebraska, 1904.

Caption: William Keller and his family stand in their celery field west of Kearney, Nebraska, 1904.

Nebraska farmers have often experimented with new crops in their endeavor to obtain wealth from the land. The Kearney Daily Hub, on May 16, 1901, reported on the prospects of a promising new crop: celery.

“The celery industry in Kearney is growing. The pioneer in the industry is J. H. Black, who started in a small experimental way and found that the Platte valley was in every way suitable for it. For many years no other person went into it. Meantime Mr. Black’s sons had grown up and were taken into the business, and the firm of J. H. Black and sons was annually growing about fifty acres at the time of the death of Mr. Black about two years ago. The sons have continued the business, and during recent years others have gone into it, first on a small scale, but increasing gradually as they become familiar with the culture of the plant. This season not less than one hundred and seventy acres will be grown in this vicinity, there being about fifteen persons engaged in the industry.

“Five miles east of Kearney the Shreve brothers will have five acres and Mr. Licking the same. Two and a half miles east Mr. Christenson will cultivate four acres. One and a half miles east Mr. Mildyke will put in about two acres. Williams Bros. adjoining Mildyke, will have ten acres. Mr. McCutcheon, in the same locality, will have two acres. In the same locality Mr. Didrickson will have three acres. Adjoining the corporation on the east Wm. Schramm will put in twenty-seven acres. He started a few years ago in a small way, has been successful, and has put his profits each year into increasing his acreage. He will keep this up until he has forty or fifty acres . . . .

“West of Central Avenue Linn Stoddard will have this year twenty-five acres. He started a few years ago with a small acreage and has increased it steadily. Black Bros. will keep up their output of fifty acres. C. B. Channel and brother still cultivate six acres. Wallace Bierce, further west, made a small start last year and this season will put in four acres and increase as rapidly as possible. C. M. Hull is one of the oldest celery growers next to the Blacks and will have twenty acres this season. W. L. Keller started small and will try twelve acres this summer.

“The total of about one hundred and seventy acres seems small to those unacquainted with celery growing, but it represents an industry of considerable magnitude, gives employment to a great deal of labor during the summer, and puts many thousands of dollars in circulation from the sale of the product. There has been a considerable increase of celery acreage throughout the country of recent years, but it has not affected the sale of the Kearney product, which by reason of its superior quality and nutty flavor commands a much better price than any other western celery.

“One of the principal growers of this city tells the Hub that he has no fear of overproduction, either in this immediate locality or elsewhere. At any rate, because of the peculiarly favorable conditions prevailing here, he is confident that every bunch of Kearney celery that is properly handled will find a ready market. The field is an inviting one at present and pays a great deal better than general farming. Within ten years Kearney will doubtless be the celery center of the western country.”

For more Nebraska Timeline columns, visit http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/timeline/index.shtml

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Marker Monday: Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home

Welcome to Marker Monday! Each Monday we will feature one of Nebraska’s hundreds of historical markers. If you’d like to see a specific marker featured, send an email to kylie.kinley@nebraska.gov.



2 Flanagan Blvd, Boys Town, Douglas County, Nebraska; 41.262607, -96.12683

Marker Text

Boys Town was founded as a home and school for homeless, abandoned, neglected or otherwise underprivileged boys, regardless of color or creed, by Father Edward J. Flanagan (1886-1948) on December 10, 1917. The first Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Home at 25th and Dodge Streets in Omaha, Nebraska, sheltered five boys…three from the Juvenile Court and two homeless newsboys. On October 17, 1921, Father Flanagan brought Overlook Farm outside Omaha, nucleus of today’s Boys Town campus. From here thousands of Boys Town residents have gone on to become productive citizens in all walks of life. The philosophy of Boys Town is summarized in Father Flanagan’s words: “Our young people are our greatest wealth. Give them a chance and they will give a good account of themselves. No boy wants to be bad. There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking.” In 1972 Boys Town expanded its services by creating the Boys Town Institute to help communicatively handicapped boys and girls, and the Boys Town Center to seek root causes of major youth problems that threaten young people everywhere.

Further Information

Search results for “Boys’ Town” on www.nebraskahistory.org

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Celebrate Home Movie Day with NSHS!

Did you know that some home movies have been named to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, alongside popular and esteemed classics such as Citizen Kane, Star Wars, and King Kong? That’s right! And a growing number of local archives, museums, and historical societies are interested in collecting home movies of regular people–not just celebrities and major events.

Home Movie Day is celebrated in October of each year. This year, it’s on Saturday, October 15. Home Movie Day is a commemoration of amateur filmmaking, with screening events held worldwide. These events provide the opportunity for individuals and families to see and share their own home movies with an audience of their community, and to see their neighbors’ in turn. It’s a chance to discover why to care about these films and to learn how best to care for them.

The Nebraska State Historical Society has well over 2000 reels of home movie footage! We collect and preserve it as a unique testament to life in the twentieth century, and are always looking to collect more.

As we work to provide access to our home movie holdings, enjoy some clips from our collections!

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