Preserve, Educate, and Exhibit

 Preserve, Educate, and Exhibit

By: Lizbeth Hermosillo-Najar, A Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as part of Heather Nelson’s Service Learning Academy class.

Since 1975 the historic building of Great Plains Black History Museum has been standing open, yet many Omaha natives have yet to hear about it and its importance within the community. So why isn’t it more well known?

Originally located on lake street then later relocated to North 24 street, the non-profit organization  is infamous for its devotion to the African-American culture. With the mission statement of “ To preserve, educate and exhibit the contributions and achievements of African Americans with an emphasis on the Great Plains region.  To provide a space to learn, explore, reflect, and remind us of our history” It is evident that this museum is an important artifact within our community that should be more well known and praised.

The history behind the museum starts off with Bertha Calloway, a community leader started the Negro Historical Society in 1963. From there in 1975 she opened the Great Plains Black History Museum, in the Western Telephone Exchange Building. Sadly in 2001 the building had to close due to the lack of funding from the City of Omaha. 

Within the museum you can find different artifacts such as photographs, archives, clothing, and many more different things. There’s always different events being hosted at the museum whether it be educational seminars or special guest speakers. You can find something for everyone from all age ranges. For the kids they often have interactive displays or fun booths such as face painting available for them. It can be considered an educational gateway or some where you are able to learn something new while having fun. For others the experience can be considered eye-opening due to the history. The new executive director Eric L. Ewing called it an “uncomfortable experience”. 

For Black History Month, the museum is holding their annual membership drive. With this opportunity hopefully the museum is able to pivot and accustom themselves to Covid-19 Additionally this year will be a virtual membership drive because of the conditions. Due to the pandemic the museum has not had many vistos so less people are able to witness the rich culture within the museum. Many people underestimate the value of these museums, WOWT reporter John Chapman stated in a recent articleThere is a lot of local history in the museum. Malcolm X was born in Omaha, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once paid a visit to north Omaha. Sports stars like Bob Gibson and Gale Sayers got their start here. Legendary Husker Johnny Rodgers has his Heisman trophy on display

It’s important to acknowledge these types of historical buildings for the type of educational resources they provide the community. The Great Plains Black History Museum provides Omaha with an interactive but raw experience of the African-American history here and in the country. As previously stated, it is important we give these types of organizations the platform they deserve in order to keep educating the community. It’s essential for the community to understand the history behind our city in order to keep moving forward into the future.