Lincoln -- Recently I visited the Museum of American Speed on Oak Creek Drive in Lincoln. It's not well-known but should be. One does not have to be a car or racing enthusiast to enjoy and admire the immense historical collection, the care with which it is presented, and the story behind the local businessman who made it all happen.
Like several other noteworthy museums and sites in the city and state, it is more of a secret than a popular destination, unfortunately. The Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege likewise comes to mind. Because I came across both of these places more by accident than design, I have a sinking feeling that there are many other such places I am missing.
We Nebraskans should show more interest in our own history. It distinguishes us from the rest of the country in many ways. We should resist easy homogenization into a bland national culture that relegates us to being so-called flyover country. Through our museums and historical sites, we should also resist me-too fads and fashions in analysis and presentation of our history.
To do this, we need first-rate state and local historians and citizen support. The trends are not good. This year, the Nebraska State Historical Society has suffered the premature deaths of three irreplaceable historians. The state university has not had a specialist in Nebraska history for many years. I can understand, appreciate, and defend the UNL history department's expertise in esoteric areas like Coptic civilization and Italian fascist architecture. In fact, as an alumnus I make annual donations to the College of Arts and Sciences to help support such scholarship and gladly support the College with taxes. I believe these subjects are actually more timely and relevant than they might appear at first glance. But these are also subjects of importance to higher learning institutions everywhere. Who is watching out for Nebraska state and local history?
It is a mystery as to why regents, legislators, or others in a position to do so do not make Nebraska history a higher priority. More faculty expertise in Nebraska state and local history would help guide graduate students into the field as well. Many great Nebraska topics are waiting for the attention they deserve in a master's thesis or a doctoral dissertation. It is commendable that local museums and volunteer historians do their best with the resources at hand, but we Nebraskans should be treating our history with the attention and respect it demands if we truly care about our state.