While many people see museums primarily as entertainment, they are much more than that. What defines a museum under the guidelines of the American Alliance of Museums is an entity that that has an educational mission and a collection. That collection may be animals or trees in regards to zoos and arboretums, or physical objects such as historical, natural history or art museums. In the case of many of Nebraska City’s museums, the building in which the museum is housed is not only part of the collection but the reason for the museum’s existence. While museums take their roles in preservation seriously, preserving large objects like buildings is especially challenging.This holds true in the case of the Nebraska City Historical Society’s two buildings. The Old Freighters Museum is the Russell Majors and Waddell building built in 1858 which is linked to and interprets the overland trails and freighting of the mid-nineteenth century. Its original building constructed in 1855, the Taylor-Wessel-Nelson House, interprets Nebraska City’s social, economic and architectural growth over the years. Considering their age, the preservation and upkeep of these two buildings is a challenge and a necessity in saving the community’s history.

Created this summer, the Nebraska City Museum Association’s Maintenance Committee is assisting all of the museums of the community in their preservation endeavors. Focusing its initial efforts primarily on the two Historical Society’s buildings, both were assessed and repairs are being made based on building safety, time and funds available.

One of the priorities for the Nelson House was the status of the two Silver Maples growing in front of the house. Photographs from 1910 show the two trees less than ten feet tall. One hundred years later, these two specimens’ size and location were now considered a threat to the period home. While the Maintenance Committee worked on more manageable projects, the City of Nebraska City stepped in and assisted with the trees. Considered a threat to the nearby power lines as well as the home, these trees were removed without cost to the Historical Society.

With work still underway on the Old Freighters Museum, with the help of the community and City, the Historical Society is now able to ensure the continued life of both of these historically important sites. With just a month remaining of the Museum Residents Program, local residents can still visit both of these museums for free and see the improvements made.