Tag Archives: Durham Museum

Bill Gonzalez

April 6, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chat with Bill Gonzalez for a short while and one thing becomes clear: It really is hard to keep a good man down.

Nearly 20 years ago, Gonzalez was down. In August 1999, while working at an Omaha warehouse, Gonzalez tripped while crossing over a machine. Its drive belt caught his leg, shattering it from his knee down and damaging his back. Despite a handful of operations on his leg and back, Gonzalez was disabled.

“I couldn’t do physical work anymore,” he says, “and I didn’t have the skills to do anything else.”

He was homebound but realized that wasn’t the way he wanted to spend the rest of his life.

“That’s a quick way to die,” he says. “I had to get out of the house and do something other than sitting home eating painkillers and going nuts.”

A newspaper article noting that the Durham Museum was seeking volunteers for its archives department changed all that. Gonzalez thought back to his days at now-defunct Omaha St. Joseph High School when, during his senior year, someone presented photos of Omaha from the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, then in the possession of KMTV (Channel 3).

“I was just blown away seeing these old pictures of what Omaha used to look like. I always remembered that.”

From the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, this 1911 image was taken on top of the Union Pacific Railroad Building at 14th & Dodge streets looking east.

Now the collection was on permanent loan to the Durham. Gonzalez, who lives just 2 minutes from the museum, wanted in. He joined the Durham as a volunteer March 15, 2005, working one day a week.

“As soon as I started working here I knew I’d found a home,” Gonzalez says. “I just kept coming back.”

Soon he was working four days a week. After a couple years, the museum hired him on a permanent basis as photo archive associate with its curatorial and education services. Today he oversees collections totaling more than 1 million photographs of Omaha from the 1860s to 1990s—from its rise as a frontier town with shanties on the banks of the muddy Missouri River to a sophisticated metropolis with a bustling downtown straddling those same banks. Many of the photos are digitized and available through the museum’s website. Gonzalez has written many of their descriptions. 

  When a visitor comes to the museum seeking a specific photo, Gonzalez is the man they turn to. He already possesses great personal recall of the city. Though his parents were immigrants from Mexico, 67-year-old Gonzalez was born and raised in South Omaha.

“A lot of stuff, I know what I’m looking at. The younger interns don’t have an idea,” he says of decades-old Omaha scenes and long-gone iconic structures from his youth. “Someone said I’m the organic memory of archives. I guess that’s true.”

Using that memory and his knowledge of Durham’s vast photo archive helps him connect people to pictures, past to present.

“The best part, the part that really gets me high, is when I find a picture that a person has some kind of emotional attachment to,” Gonzalez says. “A lot of the pictures we have are really family pictures of people. They mean something to somebody.”

They’ve got a good man to find them.

Visit durhammuseum.org for more information.

Favorite Old Omaha Photos

What are Bill Gonzalez’s favorite photos in Durham archive? He has many. Among his favorites, he includes: an aerial of Omaha taken in 1947 and looking west from the museum, formerly Union Station. “A spectacular shot,” he says. Another, from the Bostwick-Frohardt Collection, was taken on top of the former Union Pacific headquarters near 14th and Dodge streets and looks southeast. “A lot of what you’re looking at is no longer here,” he says.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Mary Mitchell

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Heather and Jameson Hooton

These autobiographical pieces and corresponding photos are part of a special edition of 60PLUS featuring local residents who prove that fashion has no age limits.


Mary Mitchell, forever young

I was born in Buffalo, New York, to John and Irene Kafasis. After graduating as a fashion illustrator from the Albright Art School in conjunction with the University of Buffalo, I worked as the in-house illustrator at Flint & Kent Department Store for two years. I married John C. Mitchell, an attorney, and moved to Kearney, Nebraska.

My son, John, was born in Kearney. We eventually moved to Omaha where I worked at the Nebraska Clothing Co. for four years as their fashion illustrator. I started freelancing for about 15 retailers, doing advertising and illustrating their fashions in the World-Herald and Lincoln Journal. A few of the retailers I worked for were Topps, I. Eugene Shoes, The Wardrobe for Men, Goldstein Chapman, Natelson’s, Wolf Brothers, Zoobs, and Aquila.

In the 1980s, photography took over illustrating fashions in newspapers and magazines. It was a time of transition for the industry and for myself as well. I decided to put my skills to work for Mitchell Broadcasting Stations. John had acquired 16 radio stations in Nebraska, and I started working full time as vice president at our Omaha office, where I handled all the advertising and designed logos, newspaper layouts, billboards, and bus ads. During this time, we also got involved in ownership of two restaurants, Le Versailles and The Golden Apple.

In the meantime, I had saved over 1,000 of my original fashion illustrations. Our good friends, Anne Marie Kenny and Mary Jochim, saw some of them and asked me if they could find a venue to exhibit them. They pursued several venues and settled on The Durham Museum. I had a four-month exhibit at The Durham Museum in 2012, which was the impetus to write my book, Drawn to Fashion. I was very fortunate to have Oscar de la Renta write the forward to my book. The exhibit traveled to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for one month, where the official dedication of the Mary Mitchell Fashion Design Studio took place in October 2012. All proceeds from the book, note cards, and prints of my illustrations go to scholarships for University of Nebraska students in fashion design. There are four scholarships each year, and the program will go on in perpetuity.

It is my fondest wish that the University of Nebraska scholarship fund can help pave the way for exciting careers for young people who are, today, just like I was as a child—dreaming of beautiful clothes, making them, drawing them, selling them, loving the creative life, and feeling that powerful urge to get involved—young people who are, just like I was, “drawn to fashion.”

I am so fortunate and grateful to have had a wonderful husband, John, who always urged me to follow my career and pursue my dreams. I am proud of our son, John, who is an outstanding person and doctor, our lovely daughter-in-law, Kathleen, and my exceptional grandchildren, Emily, John B., and his beautiful wife, Roxanne.

As far as aging gracefully, I would say, surround yourself with good friends, enjoy your life through thick and thin, and always strive to help one another. And, of course, pursue your dreams.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine

2017 July/August Family & More

Farmers Markets

Gardening season is open in Omaha, and those desiring to eat fresh produce without digging in the dirt themselves will find plenty of options around the area. Along with produce, shoppers will find artisan cheeses, farm-raised meats, freshly baked breads, assorted treats, and even craft items.

  • Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays.
  • Benson (4343 N. 52nd St.): 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.
  • Council Bluffs (Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs): 4:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Thursdays.
  • Gifford Park (33rd and California streets): 5-8 p.m. Fridays.
  • Florence Mill (9102 N. 30th St.): 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays.
  • Old Market (11th and Jackson streets): 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.
  • Papillion (Washington Street and Lincoln Road): 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays.
  • Rockbrook Village (2800 S. 110th Court): 4-7 p.m. Thursdays.
  • Village Pointe (168th and Dodge streets): 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Free Movies

Get out of the living room and into the fresh summer air to watch popular movies. Bring a blanket or lawn chair, sit back, and relax. All movies start at dusk.

  • Flix at the Chef (Behind Dairy Chef in Elkhorn, 3223 N. 204th St.): Saturdays July 8 and Aug. 12 Popcorn provided, other snacks can be purchased.
  • Midtown Crossing (Turner Park, 3110 Farnam St.): Mondays through July 31. Popcorn available.
  • Movies in the Park (Bayliss Park, 100 Pearl St., Council Bluffs): Fridays through Aug. 4.  Pack your own snacks.
  • SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S. 108th St.): Saturdays through Aug. 11. Concessions can be bought.

Patio Pup Crawl: Second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at Midtown Crossing at Turner Park, 3333 Farnam St. Bring your dog and hop around the patios of Cantina Laredo, Crave, and Black Oak Grill. Each night will be hosted by a different dog-centric organization in Omaha. Win prizes, enjoy drink and food specials, and more. 6-9 p.m. 402-598-9676.
midtowncrossing.com

Red, White, and Zoo! July 1-4 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Celebrate Independence Day with the red, white, and blue creatures of Omaha’s zoo. Throughout the holiday weekend, visitors can “parade” through the zoo on a self-guided tour in search of red, white, and blue animals. There will be entertainment, including bounce houses, music, and special animal encounters for all ages. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults, $18.95 seniors (65+), $13.95 children (3-11), free to age 2 and under. $1 discount for military with valid ID. 402-773-8401.
omahazoo.com

Summer Splash: July 1 at ESU No. 3 Gifford Farm Education Center, 700 Camp Gifford Road. Bring a picnic lunch, visit with farm animals, learn, explore, and splash into the summer season in the farm-made splash area. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Admission: $5 per person (ages 2+), military, fire and rescue, and health professionals are half price with work I.D. 402-597-4920.
esu3.org

Ralston Fourth of July Festival: July 4 at Independence Square, 77th and Main streets. One of the biggest Fourth of July celebrations in the metro area features a run/walk, quilt show, children’s parade, live music, a full-scale parade, fire department water fights, and much more. Admission: free, but entry fees required for some activities. Fun run: 7:50 a.m., kids parade: 10 a.m., full scale parade: 1 p.m. 402-339-7737.
ralstonareachamber.org

Brew at the Zoo: July 15 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Guests aged 21 and over can stroll through the zoo and sample unique brews from dozens of local breweries, as well as a selection of locally produced wines. Spend your night with live music, food, and games as well as seeing the animals. 8-11 p.m. Reservations required. $65 general admission, $55 for members. 402-773-8401.
omahazoo.com

The Color Run Omaha: July 15 at CenturyLink Center Omaha, 455 N. 10th St. The “Happiest 5K on the Planet” is an un-timed race that celebrates healthiness, happiness, and individuality. The Color 2017 Dream World Tour features an all-new cloud foam zone, inspirational dream wall, and giant unicorns. 8 a.m.-noon. Registration: $40 per person for teams, $45 for individual runners, $15 for participants ages 5 and under, free entry for non-participants ages 5 and under.
thecolorrun.com 

Railroad Days: July 15-16 at various locations. This hands-on, family-friendly celebration of trains will take place at Lauritzen Gardens, The Durham Museum, RailsWest Railroad Museum, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, and the Historic General Dodge House. Transportation between the venues included with admission, which is $15 for a family pass (limit 2 adults). 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 402-444-5071.
omaharailroaddays.com

RiverFest: July 21-22 at Haworth Park, 2502 Payne Drive, Bellevue. This regional festival that attracts over 30,000 attendees involves live music, a beer garden, kids zone, fireworks, helicopter rides, a state champion barbecue competition, and more. Admission: $1. 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m. 402-898-3000.
bellevuenebraska.com

Victory Fighting Championship 58: July 22 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. VFC is back at Baxter Arena with 15 pro and amateur mixed martial arts fights. The event is also live-streamed on UFC Fight Pass. 7 p.m. Tickets: $30-$75. 800-745-3000.
victoryfighter.com

Nebraska Highway 66 Concourse Classic: July 22-23 at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland. Vintage and collectible cars, hot rods, and motorcycles from the 1930s on will be displayed among the historic aircraft. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active military, and veterans; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Harry Potter Drive-in Movie Night: July 23 at Falconwood Park, Bellevue. The adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s popular children’s novel will be open to families and will feature food trucks and a concession stand. Movie starts at dusk. Admission per vehicle: $7 (one person), $14 (two people), $20 (three+ people). 402-210-4747.
eventbrite.com

Night Market Pop-up Festival: July 28 at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. Midtown Crossing is excited to bring this first-of-its-kind event to Omaha. Highlights include a mini food festival, giant outdoor games, moonlight yoga, live music from local musicians, and 20-plus local vendors. Free to the public and dog-friendly. 6-10 p.m.
midtowncrossing.com

FishFest Omaha: July 28-30 at Falconwood Park, 905 Allied Road, Bellevue. Aside from the national artists’ performances, Nebraska’s largest Christian music festival will feature a bonfire worship service; drive-in movie; camping for tents, RVs, and glampers; 11 large inflatables; a variety of recreational activities (badminton and volleyball courts); and more. Times vary. Tickets: $35-$169. 402-422-1600.
fishfestomaha.com

Benson Days 130: July 29 in Benson, 5916 Maple St. This one-day, family friendly festival will commemorate Benson’s 130th anniversary and its creative culture. Activities include a pancake breakfast, parade, street festival featuring dozens of vendors, live music, children’s activities, and more. Pancake breakfast at 8 a.m., parade and street festival at 10 a.m. Admission: free.
bensondays.com

Native Omaha Days: July 31-Aug. 7 at various locations on 24th Street from Fort to Burdette streets. People from around the country will gather in North Omaha for this 21st biennial celebration. Enjoy traditional events, such as gospel night, along with new events: a food, arts, and culture expo and a community line dance. Times vary. Admission: free. 402-346-2300.
oedc.info

New American Arts Festival: Aug. 4 in Benson, Military Ave at Maple Street. Celebrating the arts, ideas, and cultures of Omaha’s refugee and immigrant communities. Workshops, performances, art displays, artist vendors, food vendors, music, interaction, and more will be provided. Workshops 4-7 p.m., artist’s market 5-10 p.m., stage performances 7-11 p.m. Free. 402-203-5488.
bensonfirstfriday.com

Family Fun Carnival: Aug. 5 at Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, 28210 W. Park Highway, Ashland. The carnival will feature make-and-take activities, games, a science demonstration from the Mad Scientist, a spacewalk, face-painting, and balloon animals. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: $12 adults; $11 senior citizens, active/retired/veteran military; $6 children (4-12); free for children (3 and under). 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Root Beer Float Day: Aug. 5 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Celebrate this national day with a free 8-ounce root beer float while learning about the history of soda jerks and experiencing how travelers enjoyed the soda fountain, which dates back to 1931, while passing through Union Station. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission to the museum: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 3. 402-444-5071.
durhammuseum.org

Nebraska Balloon and Wine Festival: Aug. 11-12 at Coventry Campus, south of 204th and Q streets. Watch hot air balloon launches and glows. Enjoy Nebraska wines, Midwest food, area musicians, shopping, crafts, pony rides, and more. Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday 3-11 p.m. $10 general admission, $7 for children under 12, free for children 5 and under. 402-346-8003.
showofficeonline.com

Sweet Corn Festival: Aug. 12-13 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This annual festival celebrates Nebraska’s agricultural jewel through a variety of food, activities, and entertainment, including: sweet corn ice cream samples from Ted and Wally’s, a hayrack ride, live music, cooking demonstrations, corny children’s crafts, and more. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for members and children under 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Greek Festival: Aug. 18-20 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 602 Park Ave. Taste homemade Greek cuisine, experience authentic Greek music and culture with folk dancing in full Greek dress, and more family fun. Children can enjoy face painting, balloons, and more. Friday 5-11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. General admission: $3. 402-345-7103.
stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Yoga in the Aquarium: Aug. 19, 20, 26, 27 at Henry Doorly Zoo, 3701 S. 10th St. Bring your own yoga mat, water bottle, and other necessary equipment for the yoga class inside the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium. 9-10 a.m. Pre-registration is required. Admission, which includes the class and zoo entrance, is $20 for members, $22 for non-members. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Omaha Fashion Week: Aug. 21-26 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. The nation’s fifth largest fashion event supports more independent fashion designers than any other organization in the region. Omaha Fashion Week nurtures the youngest of fashion designers by providing mentoring, educational opportunities, and a professional platform for designers to showcase and sell their work. 6-10 p.m. Tickets: $40-$80. 402-937-1061.
omahafashionweek.com

Millard Days: Aug. 22-27 at Andersen Park, 136th and Q streets. What started as a barbecue in the park in 1964 is now a week full of activities, including a parade, carnival, beer garden, live music, horse shows, and more. Times vary. General admission: free. Carnival admission: $25. 402-679-5258.
millarddays.com

Runway Wrap Up: Aug. 25 at Omaha Design Center, 1502 Cuming St. This unique fashion show features bold and daring designs that incorporate condoms to increase community awareness of HIV. A benefit for the Nebraska Aids Project. 10:30 p.m. Admission: $20 adults, $15 students, and $50 for VIP tickets. 402-552-9260.
nap.org

Dundee Day: Aug. 26 at the Dundee neighborhood, 50th Street and Underwood Avenue. The day includes the Rundee 5K through the Memorial Park neighborhood, a pancake tent, a parade, live music from local bands, and a beer garden in Memorial Park. Local vendors and a farmers market will be open all day. Free. 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. 678-873-4591.
dundee-memorialpark.org

The Great Nebraska Beer Fest: Aug. 26 at Werner Park, 128th St. and Highway 370, Papillion. The Great Nebraska Beer Fest has a premise of education and brand awareness. It encourages attendees to interact with brewers and reps while tasting to learn about their brands and stories. This festival is a celebration of American Craft Beer with a spotlight on Nebraska and regional breweries. 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Admission: $40 advanced, $50 day of, $10 for designated drivers, free for kids under 16. 402-934-7100.
greatnebraskabeerfest.com

Hanuman High Vibe Festival: Aug. 26 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, 2285 S. 67th St. A celebration of high vibrational living, this event will be Nebraska’s first yoga, music, and plant-based food festival. The day will begin with a 5K run, followed by yoga classes, meditation sessions, Warrior Wheels rides, Ayurveda workshops, juicing seminars, and mindful living talks. 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Check website for admission. 402-496-1616.
aksarbenvillage.com


This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com


*Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

You Know You’ve Lived in Omaha A Long Time

October 15, 2015 by
  1. Johnny Carson hosting a show on WOW-TV in 1950 called The Squirrel’s Nest. The Omaha show was the television debut for the Nebraska native who went on to national stardom as a late-night TV host.  Remember when Carson took a microphone onto the ledge of the county courthouse to interview the pigeons?  He wanted to give their side of the controversy surrounding pigeon’s loitering on the ledges.
  2. You followed your nose to South Omaha. The neighborhood was malodorous because of nearby stockyards. Some neighbors referred to it as “the smell of money.”  Nicknamed “The Magic City” in the 1890s, South Omaha is an historical and culturally diverse area with eclectic neighborhoods like Little Italy and Little Bohemia.  Each year Cinco De Mayo adds fun and music to the streets.
  3. The Omar Baking Company near 43rd and Nicholas streets filled the neighborhood with sniff-worthy aroma by delivering bread door to door. You may remember the jingle:  “I’m the Omar man, (tap, tap, tap). Knocking at your door (rappa tap tap). When you taste my bread (mmmm boy!), you’re gonna want more (rappa tap tap).” The building is now used for offices and events.
  4. Perhaps your brush with fame was graduating from Westside High School in 1959 with actor Nick Nolte, eventually named People Magazine’s 1992 Sexiest Man Alive. Or living nearby when Jane and Peter Fonda resided with their aunt on Izard Street. You may have gone to UNO with Peter or cruised Dodge Street with Jane.
  5. You might have tasted the world’s first TV dinner (98 cents each) in the 1950s, introduced by Omaha brothers Gilbert and W. Clarke Swanson. The package was designed to look like a TV set at a time when only 20 percent of American homes had a television.  The TV dinner’s aluminum tray ended up in the Smithsonian Institute in 1986 as an American cultural milestone.The Swanson name lives on in Omaha on W. Clarke Swanson Public Library, Swanson Elementary School, Creighton’s W. Clarke Swanson Hall, and Durham Museum’s Swanson Gallery.
  6. The Orpheum, a movie theater built in 1927 as a burlesque theater, closed in 1971. Maybe you were there in January 17, 1975, for the renovated theater’s grand reopening. We know you weren’t there in 1971 for the last movie shown; the theater was empty.
  7. The Indian Hills movie theater built in 1961 near 84th and Dodge streets was called “the hat box” because of its shape. Perhaps you were among the people who tried to save the wide-screen Super-Cinerama theater building before it was torn down in 2001.
  8. The Cooper theater near 15th and Douglas streets, a former “bastion of bump” (burlesque) when its name was The Moon, was a place to see movies until it was demolished in 1975.

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Anne Thorne Weaver

February 18, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

National Society of Colonial Dames diva Anne Thorne Weaver is at an age when she says and does what she wants. Fortunately for Omaha, this patron puts her money where her mouth is in supporting the arts.

When the new Blue Barn Theater opens this spring, the box office will be named in her honor for a major gift she made to the company. She admires the Blue Barn’s edgy work.

“I’m just very impressed with what they do,” says weaver. “There’s something about the intimacy of the smaller theater. I think they’ve done some wonderful productions. I think their new facility will be wonderful, and there won’t be any bats,” she adds in referring to a past production when an winged intruder darted overhead.

“I thought, that’s an interesting prop,” she quips, “and then realized it was a bat. Suddenly there was this thundering of shoes coming down in a mass exodus.”

Weaver likes that the theater’s new site on South 10th Street will be more visible than its Old Market digs. “I think it’s an exciting move and one of the things that’s really going to add to the Omaha scene.”

Her gift to Omaha Performing Arts made possible the Orpheum Theater’s Anne Thorne Weaver Lounge. The dedicated private space is a chic oasis for post-show receptions.

“I think it really puts a little wow into Omaha,” says its namesake, “and really adds a lot to any attraction you’re doing in the Orpheum.”

Outside the metro, her generosity’s recognized in the gift shop named after her at the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) in Kearney and the lobby gallery named for her at the Lake Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa. She also donated the center’s stained glass ceiling created by Bogenrief Studios.

She not only gives money but time to venues she believes in, serving on boards for Opera Omaha, the Omaha Symphony, the Omaha Community Playhouse, and MONA. She served on the Western Heritage Museum (now Durham Museum) board and was active in the Joslyn Women’s Association.

Weaver, whose civic volunteering includes the Nebraska Humane Society and the Junior League of Omaha, only gives to things she enjoys. “Life is too short, so why fuss around with something I don’t enjoy or work with people I don’t like. When you give, everything is given back.”

She traces her aesthetic appreciation to her late artist grandmother, Narcissa Niblack Thorne, renowned for her miniature rooms, dioramas, and shadow boxes. Some of her grandmother’s handiwork is displayed in framed cases hanging on the walls of Weaver’s exquisitely designed home, whose expansive sun room features two Bogenrief windows.

Surrounding herself with beauty comes naturally to Weaver, who grew up in the historic Terrace Hill home in Des Moines. The restored structure is now the Iowa governor’s mansion.

The well-traveled Weaver considers the vibrant arts scene here a cultural and economic asset that makes the city a more attractive place to live and visit. She takes pleasure helping the arts thrive and sampling all the region’s offerings.

“We all need music and art in our lives,” Weaver says.

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The “Funbuster”

January 16, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

No food in the gallery. Turn down the heat. Don’t touch that.”

Co-workers at the Durham Museum call curator Carrie Meyer “The Funbuster.”  She’s something of a spoil sport. But for a good reason.

She and her staff are responsible for more than 40,000 objects at the museum. Each year, 1,000 more items are donated to the permanent collection. All have ties to Omaha history. All require special care.

The nickname is all in fun. And, for the most part, so is her job as curator of exhibits and collections. She cheerfully describes herself as a “professional nerd.” What might be tedium for others is a passion of hers.

Traveling exhibits are paired with local exhibits— those researched, written, and produced by Durham staff—with the same theme. An example is the exhibit of 44 costumes worn by actress Katharine Hepburn that opens February 7.

Meyer paired that traveling exhibit from Kent State University with a local exhibit of garments and drawings created by costume designer Georgiann Regan for the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Museum visitors often suggest exhibit ideas. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘Why don’t you have dinosaurs,’“ Meyer said.

So she did. The four-month exhibit—A T. Rex Named Sue from Chicago’s Field Museum—contributed to a record year at the Durham with 204,787 visitors in 2013.

A native of Tennessee, Meyer was motivated by television’s CSI to become a biology major. She switched majors to earn a degree in art history in 2005 from Rhodes College in Memphis. After watching the movie The Mummy, she discovered the world of museum history and thought “Could I do that?” Meyer moved to Waco, Texas, to pursue a Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Baylor University, while working two jobs.

In 2007, Meyer became curatorial associate at the Ak-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Clewiston, Florida, run by the Seminole Tribe She joined the Durham in 2008.

Meyer is pursuing a Master of Arts in History at UNO with an emphasis on Omaha history. In 2014, she was appointed to the Landmarks Heritage Preservation Commission.

Along the way, Meyer learned that collecting local history can entail some long hours and odd side trips. Durham staff was at TD Ameritrade Park in 2011 to collect programs commemorating the opening day of the ball field. “We keep an eye on the things happening today that people will want to know tomorrow,” Meyer said.

Some day that program will become historical. And when it is, “The Funbuster” will ensure nobody mishandles a piece of Omaha history.

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Downtown’s Iconic “Omaha”

March 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perhaps the most iconic image of the word “Omaha” is the one with big block letters that look a century old, scrawled across the Riley Building at 1016 Douglas St.

In fact, the advertisements were only painted on the east and west walls of the warehouse building in 1982. That’s almost 100 years after the building was built in 1889.

“We were all hoping it would last a couple years,” says designer nellie sudavičius macCullum (locals may know her now as the marketing director for Nebraska Shakespeare). Actually, the paint job hasn’t been retouched in over 30 years.

Now home to Pinnacle Bank, the Riley Building was then owned by Billie Lee Mommer, an interior designer and historic renovator. Mommer had hired macCullum’s advertising agency, Galen & nellie, Inc., in 1980 to create her own logo. Shortly thereafter, macCallum and business partner Galen Lillethorup moved into the Riley Building as well. It was then that Mommer asked macCallum to design something for the exterior walls.

“She said, ‘I want to be true to the building, but, nellie, whatever you want to do on the sides of the building, it’s yours’—ha ha!” macCullum remembers. “I incorporated things that I loved into that wall.”

macCullum started researching at what is now the Durham Museum. “I went to the turn-of-the-century telephone directory in the library. I pulled out four or five, and I went through every page looking at the advertisers,” she says.

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She took several photos of the building, trying to get them straight-on. She made big prints, which she could write and draw on by hand—mockups the old-fashioned way.

First, she enhanced the few original advertisements that could still be made out on the wall. “For instance,” she says, “on the east side there’s a ‘Burlington’ that we just cleaned up. On the top left near the front of our building was a ‘Regis Hotel.’”

Original artwork made its way into the design as well. “Another love, because I was a music and art major, I wanted to put some music up there,” macCallum says. “So on the west, you can see the beginning to Beethoven’s 5th.”

Then, of course, the big “Omaha.”

“That nice beautiful ‘Omaha’ on the west side—that, I literally ripped out of the telephone directory. I just loved the look of it. It really matched the age of the character of the building,” says macCullum. “I had so much fun doing this. I think it took me at least three months to pull all the visuals together.” .

 When the time came to actually paint the designs, macCallum contacted Ric Darrell to do the job. “I knew it was something I couldn’t do alone,” Darrell says, “so I contacted Steve Hast.” Hast was on vacation in Big Lake, Mo., so Darrell drove down to talk to him about it.

“We both knew we’d have to quit jobs to do this,” Darrell says. They decided to go for it. Darrell and Hast formed Apple Graphics, with the Riley Building as their startup project. Painting began in September of 1982.

They took giant rolls of brown Kraft paper and hung them in Darrell’s garage in Millard. A projector set up in the driveway ensured they got the scale of macCullum’s mockups right. They traced the designs with an electric perforating machine, “like a pen that electrically burns a hole through the paper. It makes a little patterned hole every six inches,” Darrell explains.

With the paper up on the exterior of the Riley Building, Darrell and Hast went over the holes with charcoal again and again, so that the marks would show up through the paint. macCullum estimates they used 50 rolls of paper.

Darrell and Hast mixed colors to match what macCullum had in mind for distressed-looking paint. “I’m just amazed that it’s lasted this long,” says Darrell, giving credit to Diamond Vogel paints.

Each wall took about a month to paint, and their deadline was getting down to the wire. “It was November by the time we were on the second wall, and we had some days where we were fighting some pretty bad weather,” says Darrell. Other challenges included late design updates and weak electricity. “The power would knock out,” Darrell explains, a problem considering their scaffolding was electric staging. “And so we’d be stuck up there. So one of us would have to shimmy down the lifeline ropes, down five stories to the ground, and go in and turn the power back on.”

All in all, Darrell says it was an exciting job.

Perpetual Motion

March 2, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jorge Ambriz has been moving his whole life—as a dancer, that is. The 36-year-old HR Manager of Omaha Steel Castings trained as a child in Mexican folkloric dance. No matter where he has lived, he always found a dance company so he could keep in motion. For the past seven years it’s been with University of Nebraska-Omaha’s The Moving Company, perhaps the area’s leading practitioners of 20th-century and contemporary dance.

But Ambriz isn’t affiliated with the university. A common misperception is that The Moving Company is for students only. The troupe, which was established in 1935 and is one of the oldest university dance companies in continuous existence in the world, draws people of all ages from all walks of life. “People usually think it’s for UNO,” remarks Ambriz. “That’s not the case. Out of 30-plus members, less than 10 are probably students.”

The company’s director, Josie Metal-Corbin, elaborates, “We are not a student organization. UNL has a dance major, UNK a dance minor. But what we have is a dance company. We are under the auspices of the College of Education and the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. We’re very grateful that the College values what we do. We’ve been in existence off the blood, sweat, and tears of a lot of people.”

Dancers range in age from 18-50, and all members audition for a limited number of spaces. While some dancers are professional and maintain their own studios, others have included an ornithologist from the Henry Doorly Zoo and a CEO of a cement company. “The Moving Company welcomes all backgrounds of dance,” Ambriz explains. “It’s very diverse and has all ethnicities, all ages, and all levels of dance.”

Even though the company is dedicated to modern dance, choreographers incorporate other styles, such as swing and salsa. “One of the beautiful things about The Moving Company,” Ambriz says, “is that it opens the door to different dance.”

Performances take place at UNO, but the troupe also does site-specific choreography through its community outreach and partners with numerous area organizations. Over the years, performances have taken place at such venues as the Omaha Community Playhouse, the Durham Museum, Harrah’s Casino, area high schools, St. Cecilia’s Cathedral, and even in the Joslyn Art Museum’s fountain court. “We love to collaborate and do partnerships,” remarks Metal-Corbin. “It’s very fulfilling. Dancers move out into the world and
people interact.”

This spring The Moving Company will notably take to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to celebrate National Water Dance Day. “The movements deal with water,” says Metal-Corbin. “Our theme is drought, and we will move across 3,000 feet [of the bridge] with musicians and dancers.”

For Ambriz, these kinds of experiences are enriching. “The Moving Company,” he says, “allows us to use our full potential.”

Q&A: Valeria Orlandini

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Valeria Orlandini has made a career of preserving works on paper and photographic materials, many of which are proudly displayed in fine homes and museums worldwide. Ensuring that the rich stories, family memories, and important lessons they convey live on for future generations is a job she takes very seriously.

Q: Tell us about your work as a preservation specialist. Who are your clients? 

A: Orlandini Art Conservation was established in 2004 to provide the highest quality conservation treatment and preservation services for a broad range of paper-based objects: historic manuscripts, prints, printed documents, watercolors, drawings, paintings in all media, collages, contemporary works, pastels, and posters, as well as parchment, ivory, and photographic materials. Regardless of whether you’re a discerning collector or a family seeking to preserve precious documents, my goal is to provide all clients with the same exacting standards required by major art and archival institutions. My clients are mid- to high-end collectors and custodians of artistic and valuable and irreplaceable historic materials from holdings in museums, archives, libraries, private owners, and corporate businesses. I work in a wide range of projects and budgets.

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Q: Where did you receive your education and training in art and art conservation?

A: I hold a B.F.A. from the National School of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires; a M.F.A. from the National School of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires; and graduated in 2002 with a M.S. and a Certificate in Art Conservation in Paper and Library Science at the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Program in Newark, Del.

Q: When did you first discover your love of history? Why are you so passionate about preserving it?

A: I have always been an art and history geek! I grew up with artists in my family, and as a child I would dig for old artifacts at my grandparents’ homes. I think that from that very early age, I became aware of how real history can be. Also, I come from a family of collectors and art and architecture lovers. Just about every member of my family collects old artifacts and memorabilia of previous generations. I grew up with a real sense of the importance of the past.

Every day, the vision of artists, the identity of people, and the very evidence of history all threaten to disappear. Left alone, old buildings will crumble, the Declaration of Independence will disintegrate, and the photographed faces of battle-weary Civil War soldiers will fade away, among other artifacts. The cultural patrimony, so painstakingly created over thousands of years, is surprisingly ephemeral with the ravages of time and the indifference of a disposable modern culture its biggest enemies.

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Q: How does your work interplay with home interiors and historic home preservation? 

A: As a collections conservator, I work very closely with interior designers, architects, engineers, and maintenance personnel to secure the building envelope where we protect objects from extremes and fluctuations in exterior temperature and moisture as well as light, dust, and gaseous contaminants. We frequently assess and measure temperature and relative humidity characteristics of air surrounding collections, as well as patterns of use and handling protocols. The conservation mission recognizes the need to preserve the unique character of both historic structures and artifacts. No two collections are identical.

Q: What have been some of your most interesting past projects?

A: While working in a number of studios and labs, I’ve had the privilege to treat an array of fascinating objects: Old Master paintings; Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo Period; ancient Korean rubbings and manuscripts; original newsprints from various American cities upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination from April 1865; John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” folios; original documents of the Founding Fathers; and many others.

Most notably in 2010-11, I participated in the conservation treatment of the Thomas Jefferson Bible Project at the National Museum of American History, at the Smithsonian Institution. I worked with a team of conservators and scientists, conducting materials analysis, assessing aqueous stabilization treatment options, considering appropriate micro- and macro-environmental conditions, and a variety of other tests to help preserve this national treasure.

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Q: What projects have you worked with since moving here?

A: I have treated several objects from the Durham Museum. This museum stands as a magnificent reminder of a bygone era and allows generations to come together to learn, to share, and to remember.

Also, a very rewarding project that I carried out last fall was the treatment of an original Wright Brothers Patent Document [No. 821,393] for the “flying machine,” circa 1903-06 that was brought to my care from a private collector in Iowa. This was a really interesting study piece about the history of aviation and contains five original signatures hand-inscribed in iron gall ink by the Wright Brothers: Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912), witnesses, and attorney.

Q: What advice would you give those looking to preserve family heirlooms? 

A: The American Institute of Conservation and Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) has developed guides for caring for your treasures at conservation-us.org. There’s also a book by Heritage Preservation entitled Caring for Your Family Treasures that can provide folks practical advice and easy-to-use guidelines on how to polish silver and furniture without diminishing their value, as well as creating safe display conditions for artworks, ceramics, dolls, quilts, books, photographs, and other treasured collections. These are tips with clear and understandable information on how to care for beloved family treasures.

Fashion: Sentimental Journey

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Christian Behr

The Art Deco style and grandeur of The Durham Museum was the perfect setting for our fashionable homage to the golden age of train travel. In the ’30s and ’40s, stylishly dressed travelers filed through the halls of this former Union Pacific station to board gleaming railcars, sometimes headed to cities in the East for work, other times traveling on holiday. It’s a bygone era when rail travel was a glamorous event, worthy of dressing one’s best.

Models Matt, Jessica, Kenzie, and Zach of Omaha wear fashions from Jerry Ryan Clothing & Sportswear, Nouvelle Eve, Christian Nobel Furs Ltd., and Goldsmith Silversmith. Hair & Makeup by Cassie Broniecki. Thanks to The Durham Museum.


Photo 1: Kenzie wears a one-shoulder gold dress with black peacock feather print, a green pearl and gold statement necklace by Paul & Co., and a black angora dinner jacket with fox and chiffon ruffles.
Photo 2: Zach wears a single-breasted brown metallic suit from Jerry Ryan by S. Cohen with a light blue dress shirt and gold and brown herringbone-pattern tie.
Photo 3: Jessica wears a sleeveless cranberry dress with inset black leather panel by tea r rose and a hand-beaded kidskin 1920s-inspired black cape by Zuki Z.
Photo 4: Jessica wears a sleeveless scoop-neck floral lace dress in “latte” by 1X1A, a pale pink twisted seed pearl choker necklace, and a white fox vest.
Photo 5: Kenzie wears a three-quarter length Swakara jacket with ribbed waistline and cuffs in charcoal gray.
Photo 6: Matt wears a gray linen single-breasted suit from Prive by Baroni and a patterned black cashmere and wool coat by Lanificio for TG di Fabio.