Museum Marks 150 Years with Creative Outreach

After months of pandemic limits or closures, the State Museum welcomed back in-person visitors during its 150th year.

The University of Nebraska State Museum’s 150th year was unlike any other, but the unprecedented circumstances set the stage for the future.

The museum formally celebrated its anniversary in 2021, after reopening to visitors.

“It has been a spring of hope,” said Susan Weller, museum director. “It’s wonderful to have visitors back in the museum.”

The museum was closed to visitors for months during the COVID-19 pandemic but continued meeting its mission. By embracing technology, museum staff delivered content and education virtually, reaching more than 902,000 people in all 50 states and in 72 countries in 2020.

While the museum has reopened to visitors, it continues to build its virtual outreach opportunities, said Weller, professor of entomology. In partnership with Nebraska Public Media, people will be able to tour all four floors of the museum from their home computer, tablet or phone.

“As much as we want people to come here and visit the museum, we are aware that Nebraska is a very large state and we need to meet Nebraskans where they live,” Weller added. The online tour is available at

2021 also marks the anniversaries of two museum affiliates – the 60th for Trailside Museum at Fort Robinson State Park and the 30th for the Ashfall Fossil Beds near Royal, Nebraska.

The museum, widely known as Morrill Hall to generations of Nebraska school kids, was founded in 1871 with a small teaching collection. Today, its active research collections have grown to include more than 13 million specimens and artifacts. The most famous museum attraction is “Archie,” the world’s largest fully mounted, composite Columbian mammoth fossil.

Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development, said the museum serves an important role in inspiring children to pursue career paths that lead to discovery.

“This idea of exposing children early, to get them thinking about different opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is incredible,” Wilhelm said. “It’s important for our state’s talent pipeline and for the impact that STEM has on economic growth for the state.”

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