The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
Great Plains Black History Museum
1701 North 24th Suite 102
Repository URL: http://www.iloveblackhistory.com/
Repository description (CRHP): The historic building in which the Museum has been housed is currently closed to the public. In 2010, the collection was stored temporarily at the Nebraska State Historical Society, where it was being inventoried and conserved. A descriptive list of the Museum's holdings can be found at http://www.iloveblackhistory.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=70.
Repository description (extant): Working with local supporters in 1962, Omaha community leader Bertha Calloway founded the Negro Historical Society. They started collecting artifacts, stories, papers and art of African-American history and culture. She wanted to be able to tell her community the history not yet told in schools. In 1976 the Great Plains Black History Museum was opened in the former Western Telephone Exchange Building, built in 1906 designed by famed architect Thomas Kimball, aided by a $100,000 grant from the United States Bicentennial Commission. Located on a historic and most famous intersection within the Omaha NE, African American community, the Great Plains Black History Museum, Archives and Interpretative Center has historically been the most important tourist attraction in the area, attracting schools, researchers and travelers from all over the country and a number of foreign countries. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Calloway's goal over the next 25 years was to teach Nebraskans and other visitors about the contributions of African Americans in the Midwest.
Since then, the Museum has featured paintings, rare books, photographs, and films of the African-American experience in the Midwest. Most African Americans arrived in the Midwest from the South during the first half of the 20th century, in two waves of the Great Migration. The museum chronicles their transformation to urban workers, the development of churches and other community institutions; and music, literature and other culture. The museum is one of the largest historical and cultural institutions devoted to African-American life west of the Mississippi River. In 1999 the Nebraska State Historical Society honored Calloway with the Addison E. Sheldon Memorial Award, for her "outstanding contributions to the preservation and interpretation of Nebraska history," years of service to the NAACP, the Great Plains Black Museum in Omaha, and her contributions to the understanding of African-American culture in Nebraska.
Most significantly, the building became a repository for inventory of collections, acquisitions etc., of the Negro Historical Society of the State of Nebraska. In the intervening 20 years the Museum has acquired approximately 100,000 items ranging from unique documents to historically significant art works and art objects which cover the broad range of the contributions of people of African ancestry to the Great Plains of the United States. It is also the only African American museum in the country with a special focus to preserve and celebrate the contributions of people of African ancestry of the Great Plains region.
Repository type: Museum
Great Plains Black History Museum manuscript collection