Treasures from Nebraska Museums

The NSHS works hard to collect and preserve Nebraska history, but we don’t do it alone. Historical organizations and museums dot our ninety-three counties and contain many treasures. To support their work in preserving our collective history, we’ve started a program called Treasures from Nebraska Museums. We’ll showcase items from the collections of various Nebraska historical organizations through an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln, our newsletter Nebraska History News, and through this blog. The ”treasures” will change every three months, allowing us to share the good work of four organizations each year.

Our featured organization from April through June of 2012 is the Plainsman Museum in Aurora. 

The Plainsman Museum was dedicated in 1976 and aims to collect and interpret the history of Hamilton County, Nebraska from 1860-1950.  The main museum rotunda features acclaimed murals and mosaics of historical events.  Unique exhibits include period rooms and a main street where visitors are encouraged to enter the shops, an original log cabin, and an authentic sod house.  Civil war, doll, and wildlife collections, as well as much more are also available for viewing.  Included on the Museum grounds are an agricultural building, a one-room schoolhouse, the historic Bates home, a blacksmith shop and a Burlington Northern Railroad Caboose.  The images featured here show just a few pieces from the Plainsman Museum’s vast collection.

The Bates House

The museum is located at 210 16th Street in Aurora. It is open April 1–October 31, Tuesday–Saturday, 9am-5pm and November 1-March 31, Tuesday-Saturday, 9am-5pm.  Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for Senior Citizens (age 62+), $2 for students (age 5-16), and free for kids under 5.  402-694-6531,

Below are  a few of the “treasures” from the Plainsman Museum that are currently on exhibit at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Nebraska History Museum.

This is a spettekaka form that was used to bake a conical cake traditional in Sweden. This form was used by Anna Olson from 1900-1930 and she was the Grandmother of LaVerle Olson Bish who is a resident of Aurora.  The Olson family spettekaka recipe is featured below:

 Here’s an image of a modern finished and decorated spettekaka:

This scale model steam engine and threshing machine were built by Aurora resident Fay Perry.  Fay was known around Aurora as the “Pumpkin Man” as he raised a bounty of pumpkins every year and displayed them on his farm north of town.  In addition to the steam engine and threshing machine, he constructed many other scale models of buildings that are also featured at the Plainsman Museum.

The engine and threshing machine are featured in the Museum’s agricultural building which houses a large collection of historical agricultural equipment.

 Please keep your eye out for future “Treasures from Nebraska Museums.”

–Deb Arenz, Associate Director for Collections

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