University of Nebraska State Museum celebrates 140th anniversary

Released on 01/10/2011, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHERE: Cooper Gallery, NU State Museum (Morrill Hall), south of 14th and Vine Streets [map]

Lincoln, Neb., January 10th, 2011 —
University of Nebraska State Museum 140th anniversary promotional graphic
University of Nebraska State Museum 140th anniversary promotional graphic
Morrill Geologic Expedition, 1897 (UNSM Archives)
Morrill Geologic Expedition, 1897 (UNSM Archives)
Erwin H. Barbour, State Museum Director (1891-1941) standing in Mammoth Arch (Archie) in the Old Museum Building, 1927. (UNSM Archives)
Erwin H. Barbour, State Museum Director (1891-1941) standing in Mammoth Arch (Archie) in the Old Museum Building, 1927. (UNSM Archives)

The University of Nebraska State Museum is celebrating its 140th year in 2011 as the state's premier museum of natural history. This milestone will be celebrated throughout the year with many new exhibits and hands-on science events, as well as membership incentives and a video campaign featuring the museum's new Archie mascot and students from Lincoln Public Schools.

Established in 1871 by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, the State Museum has grown into one of the nation's leading university research museums. Today, the museum enriches the lives of more than 100,000 visitors and students each year who visit Morrill Hall, Mueller Planetarium, the research collections, and branch locations at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park and the Trailside Museum of Natural History at Fort Robinson State Park. In 2009, the museum again earned a 10-year reaccreditation by the American Association of Museums, the highest national recognition afforded U.S. museums.

From its beginnings as the university's "cabinet," the museum has flourished thanks to public support and the tireless efforts of its staff who seek to carry on the legacy of those who laid its foundation, particularly Board of Regents member (1890-1903) Charles H. Morrill and Erwin H. Barbour, museum director from 1891 through 1941.

In 1927, after previously outgrowing spaces in University Hall, old Nebraska Hall, and the old Museum Building, the museum moved into newly constructed Morrill Hall. It was here that Barbour's dream to devote a space entirely to the evolution of the modern elephant came to fruition. World-famous Elephant Hall has been the star attraction of the museum ever since. Countless visitors have entered the grand corridor and looked in amazement at the array of ancient beasts that once roamed the plains. Above them all towers "Archie," the world's largest articulated mammoth.

Museum director Pricilla Grew points out that many visitors may not be aware that only a fraction of the museum's total collections is on display.

"Our visitors admire Morrill Hall's amazing dinosaurs and mammoths, but probably many don't realize that behind the scenes, the museum holds an irreplaceable research collection of millions of specimens and objects, collected from before Nebraska became a state, right up through last week," Grew said. "The museum collections are constantly growing as UNL researchers uncover new species and unique life forms."

Since the museum's founding, its collections in anthropology, entomology, parasitology, botany, zoology and paleontology have grown to more than 14 million specimens and artifacts. These collections not only help to explain the past, but also provide insight relevant to the most pressing scientific and social issues of today, such as global climate change and the threats to endangered species.

The coming year stands to be one of the museum's busiest.

"Our 140th anniversary comes at a time when the museum is more active than ever," said Mark Harris, associate director. "And its contribution to the university and the community has never been higher. With six major public events planned and over 80,000 visitors expected at Morrill Hall in 2011, we are poised to have one of our best years yet."

As the museum looks back on 140 years of history, it also looks to the future. Through its research, exhibits and educational outreach, the museum looks forward to making new discoveries, creating more memories and introducing a new generation of budding scientists to the power and richness of the natural world. With the ongoing support of donors, friends and staff, the State Museum will continue to thrive as one of the state's most beloved institutions in the coming century.

Visit to learn more about the museum's history, the membership sale, new exhibits, and upcoming events that are part of a year-long anniversary celebration. Watch the museum's "Mammoth Mania" videos featuring Archie dancing with students at participating LPS schools.

The University of Nebraska State Museum in Morrill Hall is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults (19 and over), $3 for children (5-18 years, 4 and under are free), and $10 for families (up to two adults and children). UNL staff, faculty and students are admitted free with valid NU ID. There is an additional charge for planetarium shows. Parking is free. For further information, telephone the museum at (402) 472-3779, visit its website,, Mueller Planetarium's website,, or contact Dana Ludvik, public relations coordinator, at (402) 472-3779 or by e-mail.

WRITER: Dana Ludvik