Collections from Nebraska National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Nebraska. We invite you to explore museum collections from Midwest Archeological Center, Agate Fossil Bed National Monument, Homestead National Monument of America, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Midwest Regional Office, Missouri National Recreation River, Niobrara National Scenic River, and Scotts Bluff National Monument.

This Cotter Chert biface (MWAC 18) is an unprovenienced or replica archeological artifact used in scientific research conducted for the purpose of studying the effects of fire on archeological resources. This collaborative project, managed by the Midwest Archeological Center (MWAC) and the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP), focused on the study of park-specific fire conditions and their associated impact on archeological resources at six National Park Service units. A select group of twenty-seven artifacts was chosen to gather baseline information on post-burn artifact weathering, and a sample of eighteen unprovenienced artifacts was selected for an experimental study of artifact cleaning techniques to measure the permanence of fire-related impacts. The artifacts are a representative collection of different materials that are typical of the parks in the study. During one particular experiment on March 18, 2007, some of the artifacts were exposed to a flanking fire during a controlled burn. Conditions on the day of the fire were 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 36% relative humidity, and a 2-7 mph wind speed from the south. The fuel was primarily grassland with an average fuel load of 4.4 tons/acre. The burn duration was 19 minutes and 35 seconds with an average plot cluster temperature of 238 degrees Fahrenheit and a plot cluster maximum temperature of 859 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to this type and duration of fire left a heavy combustive residue on the surface of this biface (MWAC 18). This study has resulted in a better understanding of the relationship between wildland fire and impacts to archeological resources in the Midwest Region. The information generated will allow park managers to focus efforts on archeological resources threatened by fire and develop strategies to reduce or mitigate anticipated negative impacts.

Midwest Archeological Center, MWAC 18

A chance meeting in 1874 would influence the life of Kalamazoo, Michigan born James Cook for the rest of his life. On an 1874 cattle drive that took him north to Fort Robinson and Red Cloud Agency, home of the Oglala Lakota, James Cook met paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. Marsh was in need of his knowledge of the Lakota language and Plains Indian sign language to secure access to fossils beds near the Agency. Marsh would spark Cook’s interest in fossils, which were prevalent on his Nebraska cattle ranch. It was also at this time that James Cook met Chief Red Cloud. Developing a mutual trust and respect for one another, this was the beginning of a friendship that would last 35 years.


Red Cloud, along with his family and friends, would journey 150 miles from Pine Ridge Reservation to Cook’s Agate Springs Ranch multiple times from the 1880s to the early 1900s. During these visits, they would present the Cook family with gifts, some made specifically for family members, others of personal significance to Red Cloud’s family. This shirt belonged to Red Cloud, and was the last gift given to James Cook in 1908 by the Oglala Lakota Chief, who passed away shortly after. James Cook preserved and displayed many of these gifted Northern Plains Indian items, including this shirt, in his ranch house turned museum, showing them to neighbors and visitors as a way of honoring the memory and culture of his old friend.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, AGFO 439

The Homestead Act of 1862 was one of the most significant and enduring events in United States history. Granting 160 acres of free land to claimants, it allowed all the chance to live the American Dream. Homestead National Monument of America, located in southeastern Nebraska, commemorates this act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the land and people. Located on the site of the first homestead claimed in the United States, this national monument memorializes the courage and tenacity of the homesteaders and pays tribute to the history of the Native Americans, the original inhabitants of this land.

The Homestead Act was based on the idea of creating an agrarian nation. Such a feat required a large number of implements and supplies. Most individuals associate this era with pioneering implements like plows and scythes. However, all of these tools were for the purpose of growing crops, and seeds were the one component that crossed all eras of homesteading.

This seed bag was manufactured by Yager Seed and Nursery Company from Fremont, Nebraska. The bag advertises a hybrid corn that stands up to drought and wind by growing a thicker root system that will reach deeper into the ground. This in turn would yield more corn, an appealing notion to the homesteader seeking a successful crop. Homesteaders were required to live on the land for five years and make agricultural improvements in order to receive their patent free from the government. This colorful sack, promoting the opportunity to make more money, would have garnered the attention of hopeful homesteaders trying to stake their claim on the prairie. Compared to the numerous implements in Homestead's collection, this seed bag is representative of all homesteaders.

Homestead National Monument, HOME 8557

From 2003-2006, the Corps of Discovery II celebrated the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by hosting a traveling interpretative exhibit at sites across the country, from Virginia to Washington. This particular marker is one of seven artifacts in the collection of the Corps of Discovery II. The silhouette of Lewis and Clark on this official National Historic Trail marker is an iconic representation of the original Corps of Discovery Expedition and their mission to explore and map the American West.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, LECL 4

The Niobrara River, once described as a “mountain stream in a prairie state,” flows from east to west across Northern Nebraska. In 1991 the Niobrara Scenic River Act was passed, establishing the waterway as an official unit of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and part of the National Park Service. This General Management Plan, completed and published in 2006, addresses issues of landownership; resource management; fishing, hunting, and trapping; visitor protection; terminology; management alternatives; visitor information, education, and interpretation; facility and infrastructure; recreational use; resource management; and boundaries. These issues were specifically identified as critical through public meetings and consultations with other government agencies. General Management Plans and Impact Statements are integral to the continued preservation of natural and cultural resources, and are regularly prepared and implemented by each unit of the National Park Service.

Niobrara National Scenic Riverway, NIOB 1

Scotts Bluff National Monument has the largest single collection of art by William Henry Jackson, the famous pioneer photographer and artist. Jackson traveled west in 1866 and documented his experiences in sixty paintings. Also in the collection are his personal items, sketches, ink drawings and photographs.

Scotts Bluff National Monument, SCBL 164

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Midwest Archeological Center, Agate Fossil Bed National Monument, Homestead National Monument of America, Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, Midwest Regional Office, Missouri National Recreation River, Niobrara National Scenic River, and Scotts Bluff National Monument.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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