The growth of the work of the Nebraska State Historical Society in the last few years brings more and more into prominence the nature
of the part played by this institution in saving material relating to Nebraska. The society, indeed, was organized long ago by prominent Nebraskans who saw that the work should them be begun. But the young state was in its buoyant adolescence, when it could not pay attention to its autobiography.
From 1878 until 1893 the work of the society had to be adjusted to small quarters, little revenue and small interest on the part of
the public. Though the efforts of its members and patrons the Nebraska State Historical Society was made a state institution in 1883, and from that time the important work of gathering matter on the history of Nebraska became one of the duties of the state.
An annual appropriation of $560 for the years 1883 and 1884 initiated state expenditures for historical work in Nebraska. It might be said that the setting apart of the historical block in 1867 was an expression in dollars and cents of the state’s interest in the work. But it is an old story how the legislature later gave the historical block the city of Lincoln for a market square.
Very slowly the generosity of legislatures increased. The excellent work of Professor Gorge E. Howard, during the time secretary of the historical society from 1885 to 1891, accomplished great things for the organization of the work and the collection into the library of the society of rare sets of colonial archives. Through his efforts were secured entire series of publications, such as the Massachusetts Historical Society publications which reach from 1892 to the present.
A new era in the development of the society’s work began in 1893 when two very important changes were made. The board of officers of the society appointed a person to fill the office of assistant secretary and librarian, crated that year, who should give his attention entirely to that work. At the same time, through the generosity of the regent of the university and the efforts of the officers of the society and university, large quarters were set apart for the use of the society in the library building of the
university. Thus the society came into possession of its fire proof rooms, and efforts were redoubled to gain proper recognition before the legislature. The nature of the work is such that the amount done is in direct proportion to the appropriations available. The public have a right to expect, therefore, that the appropriations of $3,500, $5,000 and $10,000 in 1897, 1899 and 1901 will produce commensurate results. The officers feel sure that this is true.
The “office force,” as distinguished from the board of five officers, president, two vice presidents, secretary and treasurer, elected by the historical society, consists of “assistant secretary and librarian, Jay Amos Barrett, who has general charge of the work, and who has occupied this office since its creation in 1893. Miss Daisy M. Palin has for two years handled the large newspaper mail and had charges of the work of classifying, arranging, labeling, etc., the files of accumulated papers. She has been made
“newspaper clerk” by the board. In the general work aside from the newspapers it was found necessary to have the help of another man. The present year the services of A. E. Sheldon were secured to fill this need. While he appears as “director of file work,” the part of the work assigned to him comprises general oversight of the collection of newspapers, management of the museum and collection of curios, gathering of Nebraska state publications and assistance in editing the volumes which the society issues.
The work of the society has grown rapidly and now embraces many lines of collections and investigation. It is the purpose of the association to gather into a secure and permanent place all possible material bearing on the history of the state, and to publish just As much of the valuable written material as thee may be funds for. So are eight volumes have been issued, and two more are in press. One of these consists of the Tipton Manuscripts which are regarded as a unique contribution to the biographical literature
of Nebraska Public Men. The library of the society has grown to 1,500 volumes and pamphlets together, which is rich in two particulars. An exchange of publications is maintained with other historical societies and libraries, from which comes a set of historical publications extremely valuable to the historians. The nucleus of the colonial documents founded by the wisdom and foresight of Professor Howard has been added to until this pat of the library is depended on by students of colonial history in the state.
The society aims, of course, to keep everything extant on Nebraska, and is gathering new and old material of this kind constantly. Nearly complete sets of state publications are to be consulted at its rooms. It has the only large collection of Nebraska newspapers in the state, and is the only library where about all local Nebraska newspapers are to be seen. A great clipping bureau for supplicate papers is carried on, and a great mass of Nebraska and other material made readily available. In connection with the
large and rapidly growing collection of curios, it is noteworthy that the society has been able to commence active field work in archaeology this year. The services of Mr. E. E. Blackman are engaged for this, and a great deal of archaeological research is being made. Mr. Blackman, as is well known, is an enthusiastic hunter after Indian things, and while he is comparatively young as an exclusive archaeologist, he has long studied along this line. He has the support of the noted archaeologist, J. V. Brower,
who will cooperate with Mr. Blackman this autumn in making an archaeological survey of the eastern end of our state. Another special feature of the work is a circular issued several times a year in cooperation with newspapers. Still another departure is a plan to issue a biennial report beside the collections of material in bound volumes.
The public will be made cognizant soon of the plans of the society for a special building to accommodate the rapidly growing work. The officers invite the public to use the library and collection of newspapers, and to linger about the collection of curious indefinitely.