October 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Puh-leeze,” she would beg on family vacations as a girl, “can we go to the history museum?”
Libby Krecek has a longtime passion for both history and museums.

By the fourth grade, she had decided museums would be the center of her career as well as her vacations. Krecek went on to earn a Master of Arts in Classics degree from the University of Colorado and set out to pursue her calling.

She first worked as an intern at Omaha’s Durham Museum. Jobs followed at the Joslyn Art Museum, the Gerald Ford Conservation Center and—for the past 10 years—the Douglas County Historical Society, where she is the registrar.

The what?

“I’m the one who takes care of the stuff,” explains Krecek. Wearing white cotton gloves (and sometimes purple medical-grade gloves), she tenderly handles rare historical artifacts and records.

The Douglas County Historical Society lacks a budget for acquisitions and so depends on the kindness of strangers to donate relics that tell the story of Douglas County.

Krecek accepts donations and assures the givers that their items, even when not on display, are in good (white-gloved) hands. Donations are archived in acid-free boxes with acid-free tissue.

“A lot are precious family items,” she says. “They want them to go to a good home to be preserved rather than put back in a box in the basement.”

Kathy Aultz, executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society, said Krecek has the most serious of responsibilities. “She is taking on people’s treasures, people’s memories. We have six million documents and 8,000 artifacts. The house itself 
is an exhibit.”

Aultz is referring to the General Crook House, located on Metro Community College’s main campus and home to the Society’s museum. The house’s Italianate-style façade is the same as it was in 1879 when built for Gen. George Crook.

The campus in the 19th century was Fort Omaha, a military headquarters. The historic district near 30th and Fort streets is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Krecek is thrilled by many of the donations. “Last year, a woman called. She had an authentic Indian Wars uniform from the 1860s or ’70s. The officer had been stationed here at Fort Omaha. Her collection also included his history and a photo of him wearing the uniform.”

She also trains volunteers who conduct tours of the museum, and she helps the museum’s research specialist answer questions from the public about Douglas County history.

The registrar shares office space in the library archives building with a cluttered desk, a huge aerial view of Omaha in 1944, and an oil portrait of Edward Creighton, one that is so heavy it took two people to hang.

Creighton University, where Krecek earned her Classical Bachelor of Arts degree in Classics and History, was named for the man in the portrait, who died in 1874. She’s an enthusiastic fan of Creighton basketball and baseball.

Krecek’s idea of a fun time is exploring the museum’s ancient newspaper archives. “The way people wrote back then was totally different. They wrote about what people were wearing and were more graphic about murders. I get a view into that world.” OMAG

For information on donating historical items, contact Libby Krecek at 402-455-9990 ext. 107 or registrar@douglascohistory.org.

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