University of Nebraska State Museum: Celebrating 140 years of Discovery, 1871-2011

Moments of discovery are sparked every day at the University of Nebraska State Museum, which celebrates its 140th year as the state's premier museum of natural history in 2011. This milestone is celebrated not so much in calendar years but in the countless number of lives that have been touched by the Museum’s wonders. Read more »


June 14, 1871
"University Museum" established by Board of Regents.


1883
Director of Cabinets Aughey resigned.


1885-91
Holdings expand to include botanical and entomological exhibits, adding more than 50,000 new specimens.


1891
Dr. Erwin H. Barbour named acting director in September, with formal appointment following in August 1893; maintained associations with geology department, Nebraska State Geological Survey; emphasized collection of fossils and geological specimens; funded by Charles H. Morrill.









1909
Dr. Barbour and Regent Charles Morrill toured European museums to learn what worked most effectively for design purposes.



1921
Nebraska Geological Survey separated from the museum.



1920s–'30s
More permanent displays and exhibits added.


1934
Museum became independent of the geology department.


1946
Work on the Nebraska Hall of Wildlife began, to be completed in September 1965.


1948
Curators appointed to anthropology, entomology, herbarium, zoology; only geology and paleontology had curators previously.


1950
Paleontology was divided into vertebrate and invertebrate segments.


1952
Ralph Mueller Gallery of Health Sciences dedicated in May.


1958
Mueller Planetarium dedicated
on March 23.

1963
Nebraska Hall of Wildlife was completed in September.


1965
The Valparaiso Plesiosaur added to the collection.


1970
Nebraska Hall completed, making it possible to house all the museum's collections together. 99% of the collections, about 14 million specimens, are still located there today with research staff.


1972
Restoration of the Baluchithere, the earth's largest land mammal.


1980
The Encounter Center opened on June 23.




1987
Dr. Hugh Genoways named permanent director.


1988
Nebraska State Legislature awarded $3.97M for renovation of museum. Renovation began with installation of climate control system, heating and air conditioning, new windows, new roof, new lighting to enhance exhibits, removal of asbestos, new paint, carpeting, new security system, handicapped entrance, improved space for exhibits and auditorium.


1990
The Encounter Center was relocated to the first floor.
Morrill Hall rededicated on March 18.


1992
Baluchithere removed.


1995
The Mesozoic Gallery funded by National Science Foundation opened October 1.


1997
Museum budget cut. Paved road to Ashfall Fossil Beds completed.


2000
Museum budget cut.


2002
Dr. William Splinter named interim director after Dr. James Estes retires.


2003
Major cuts in Museum's state-funded budget and staff reductions announced. Museum Studies program terminated. Positions restructured. Dr. Robert Kaul appointed interim director. Dr. Priscilla C. Grew named director.



2005
First "Dinosaurs and Disasters Day" in Morrill Hall, run by Museum staff and students and faculty in the UNL Department of Geosciences on February 19.

New "Explore Evolution" exhibit opens September 9; funded by National Science Foundation.

$170,000 from State of Nebraska LB 309 Emergency Fund provided for installation of new emergency alarms and security doors in Morrill Hall.

Children's Ashfall fossil dig opens in Marx Discovery Center (formerly the Encounter Center) June 25.

Neale Monks (visitor from Natural History Museum in London) curates exhibit in Nebraska State Capitol rotunda featuring Erwin Barbour's fossil illustrations used by mosaicist Hildreth Meiere in decorating the Capitol (completed in 1932).

New images from the Hubble Space Telescope installed near Planetarium entrance.





2008
NOVA 'Science Now' television program "Mammoth Mystery" featuring Vertebrate Paleontology Curator Mike Voorhies.

Mueller Planetarium celebrates 50th Anniversary.

Museum entomology team finds one of 2007's top new species; receives $481,000 National Science Foundation grant to complete beetle study in Central America and Mexico.


2009
Nebraska Astronaut Clayton Anderson appearance at Morrill Hall discussing Space Shuttle experiences and his 5 months aboard the International Space Station.

Museum granted unconditional 10-year reaccreditation by AAM.

Dedication of Hubbard Rhino Barn at Ashfall on June 19; funded by $1.2 million gift from Theodore F. and Claire M. Hubbard Family Foundation in Omaha, increasing Rhino Barn size by 8 times to 17,500 square feet.

NU Regent Timothy Clare unveils new imagery from Hubble Space Telescope installed in hall near Planetarium.

1874
Museum housed in corridors and science classrooms of University Hall; Professor Samuel Aughey appointed Director of Cabinets.


1885
Professor Lewis E. Hicks appointed to succeed Aughey.



1887-88
Old Nebraska Hall completed; collections moved into the new site. Collections include horse and cow skeletons, modern and fossil invertebrates, Nebraska birds and mammals, alcohol specimens, Native American relics.


1908
On Valentine's Day, the collections were housed in a new museum building south of Nebraska Hall, functioning as an earth science center that housed the geology and geography departments, the geology library, and the state survey.

1912
On March 6 fire destroyed staircase, extensively damaging building and its contents; substantial cleaning and repairs needed.


1927
Morrill Hall completed; museum moved into new space; study collections moved to basement of Andrews Hall.



1941
Dr. E. H. Barbour retired after 50 years of service. Dr. C. Bertrand Schultz named his successor.

1947
Dr. E. H. Barbour died at age 91.


1949
Museum building was dedicated at the Nebraska State Fair. University of Nebraska State Museum presence at State Fair for over 40 years!


1957
Ground-breaking for planetarium, "Theater of the Stars," took place on July 15.


1961
Ceres, the Transparent Woman, introduced; the intricate, transparent talking female lit up when talking about internal organs and functions. Trailside Museum at Fort Robinson dedicated and opened to visitors on July 3.


1969
Chimney Rock display, celebrating the University's 1971 centennial and future museum plans.


1971
University of Nebraska-Lincoln centennial held on March 31.


1973
Dr. C. Bertrand Schultz retired. Museum accredited by American Association of Museums (AAM) on May 1. Apollo 009 Spacecraft dedicated on February 8.


1974
Dr. James Gunnerson named director on May 22.


1976
New Dinosaur Gallery with allosaur model opened. The apatosaurus femur in the gallery today was prepared in 1901 by Erwin Barbour's sister Carrie, one of the first females in paleontology.


1982
Dr. James Gunnerson retired; Dr. Alan Greisemer named interim director through 1984.


1984
Dr. John Janovy named interim director through 1986.


1988
Museum given conditional reaccreditation of 5 years by AAM.


1989
Grand opening of Cooper Gallery in Morrill Hall on April 21.


1991
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park opened on June 1 and was dedicated on June 8. Ancient Life Gallery opened.


1994
Dr. Hugh Genoways retired as director; Dr. John Janovy succeeded him as interim director through January 1996. Museum granted unconditional reaccreditation by AAM on June 24.


1996
Dr. James Estes named director February 1.


1998
Museum budget cut. Tanner Plaza dedicated Nov. 21.

2004
Rededication of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park for renovated Visitor Center August 7--funded by Ashfall Friends Chapter; with new exhibit "Lewis and Clark Fossils."

"A Walk through Time"--first new Morrill Hall exhibit since budget cuts opens in October.

Donation of 9500 Philippine and East Asian botanical specimens collected between 1900-1917 to the U.S. National Herbarium, Smithsonian Institution.


2006
Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park designated as National Natural Landmark by Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in May.

Grand opening of Trailside Museum's new renovation including the new "Clash of the Mammoths" exhibit on August 4.

UNL Institutional Planning office approves 27,000 square feet of additional space in Nebraska Hall basement for Museum collections.


2007
Museum budget cut. With funding from Friends of the State Museum, Fulldome capability installed in Mueller Planetarium using "Sphemir" system invented by Paul Bourke at University of Western Australia.

Molecular Biosynthesis Laboratory established in Nebraska Hall with funding from National Science Foundation ($62,000) and UNL Vice Chancellor for Research ($30,000).

Museum staff led by George Corner completes move of 152 tons of Museum collections and shelving from Reunion Building to Nebraska Hall basement.

Museum researchers to investigate biodiversity in the Gobi vertebrate parasite project. The project is funded by a $620,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The five-year, $1.287 million project, "World of Viruses," funded by the National Institutes of Health teaches young people and their families the basics of virology.


2010
Nationally known botanist Charles E. Bessey inducted into Nebraska Hall of Fame. The museum's Bessey Herbarium, founded in 1874, houses his botanical collection.

"Sunday with a Scientist" program begins again. Provides monthly educational opportunities for children.

Three cabins constructed for housing of student scholars at Ashfall Fossil Beds with gift of $263,000 from Hubbard Family Foundation.

Museum hosts delegation from Mie Prefecture in Japan celebrating return of the restored Friendship Doll "Miss Mie" from her one-year stay in Japan for conservation and exhibitions.

50th Anniversary of Highway Salvage Paleontology Program in cooperation with Nebraska Department of Roads.


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