Morrill Hall: A History of Nebraska's State Museum


Nebraska is a state blessed to have a rich archeological and paleological record as well as a strong public university. The combination of these factors led to the creation of the Nebraska State Museum, known on the university of Nebraska-Lincoln campus as Morrill Hall. This project traces the history of Morrill Hall: the building, the people, and the collections that have made it extraordinary as an institution.

                Morrill Hall has been a groundbreaking institution for the state in terms of wealth of its collections, the depth of its research, and the pride it has generated among the populace of Nebraska. The collection of mammoths displayed in “Elephant Hall” has been a landmark for Nebraska since the museum’s doors first opened. However, few know the story of how this institution came to be.

The museum itself would be all for naught if it was not for the fearless directors who led the way to construction and administration of one of Nebraska’s first natural history institution. The museum provided a home for the treasure trove of artifacts that director E.H. Barbour excavated and brought back for the university. The famed “Elephant Hall” has been one of the largest collections of mammoth bones in the United States, and continues to draw visitors from around the country. Both the university and the state have gained from the museum.

                This collection will serve to illustrate the breadth of Morrill Hall’s collections, the hard work and collaboration required to establish a museum of natural history in Nebraska, the history of the institution, and the current work of the museum today.

Items include photographs, documents, glass plate negatives, correspondence, and interviews with current staff and director.


Editor: Hannah Vahle, sponsored by UCARE, 2013