Omaha’s Durham Museum; Rich Exhibits and a Story of History

Years back in the summer of 1929, construction began on this building, a true anchor in downtown Omaha’s landscape. Brilliantly designed by Gilbert Underwood, it is considered one of the first art deco terminals constructed in the nation, and displays an excellent carving on the exterior of 6 railroad workers each holding their respective tool. With a 65 ft high ceiling, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Great hall has massive cathedral windows, 6 exquisite chandeliers, and is an amazing site to behold. At one time the fourth largest railroad center in the country, it closed in 1971 to pave the way for Amtrak, and the gracefully aging building was given to the city of Omaha. In 1975, it opened as the Western Heritage Museum, displaying some private collections and a few small regional exhibits.

20 years later in 1995 is when the major restoration began, and $22 million was invested into a new deck, mechanical, electrical systems, and the illustrious gift shop right in front of the interior. Everyone raved about the décor, experience, exhibits, and train history found within. Models under glass, Smithsonian artifacts, and new additions to the building captivated visitors as this became recognized as a prime destination. During 2004, the Library of Congress held an inaugural exhibit in the new Velde Gallery, drawing more positive attention to the Omaha landmark. Institutions like the Field Museum and Smithsonian have exhibits and relics here, offering educational fun for the whole family on outings.

Coming up in October will be the Great Annual Halloween Haunt, with a theater make up demonstration, performance of “Thriller”, and multiple stations to pick up candy treats. There is a “Winter Count” event similar to what the Indians of the plains did to track important events and history of people, and guided tours are available for groups of ten or more, and the “River History” tour in particular has special emphasis on the lawless culture of yesteryear and the fur trade and hideouts for outlaws in our region. With homeschool happenings, all sorts of teacher resources, educational weekend programming, and an in depth look at the architecture of the building can all be learned about while visiting this great city resource. When you first come here there is enough to see that it will take your breath away, and you don’t want to miss all of the films being shown, multimedia displays, and dioramas depicting the way the west used to be. The Durham Museum is one of the best things our city has to offer; taking a walk through it will enrich any visitor who wants to pay warm homage to yesteryear.

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