One of my National Park Service dream jobs was serving as Superintendent of Scotts Bluff and Agate Fossil Beds National Monuments in western Nebraska from 1999 to 2003. I also had the opportunity to do a special assignment as Associate Regional Director for Natural Resources in the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha in 2013. Nebraska is one of my favorite places.
Nebraska's capitol is in Lincoln, not far from the National Park Service offices at the federal building.
I usually visit national parks in search of Theodore Roosevelt archives, but not all National Park Service collections are stored in parks. This May, I spent a day at the National Park Service Midwest Archeological Center, in the Robert V. Denney Federal Building in Lincoln, Nebraska. MWAC (M-whack), as we call it, houses collections from many of the national parks in the Midwest region for safekeeping, including some of the collections from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The Midwest Archeological Center of the National Park Service is in the federal building in Lincoln, Nebraska.
MWAC preserves some of the most significant items from TR’s Elkhorn Ranch, unearthed during archeological excavations in 1957 and 1959. These include a silver mechanical pencil (Who do you think used that item at the Elkhorn Ranch?), saddle cinch rings, eating utensils, and hundreds of bullet casings from a variety of 1880s firearms. Today, we might cringe at the excavation techniques used in 1957, but we are fortunate to have the items well preserved in the safety of MWAC.
The archival collections include records from the excavations, as well as correspondence related to the Elkhorn Ranch. It’s interesting stuff. As yet, it’s unclear how many of the documents may be duplicates of those we digitized at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, but it is worth capturing everything available to ensure that the TR Center has a complete record of the National Park Service’s Theodore Roosevelt archives.
I only got half way through the files of documents, so I get to return to Nebraska’s capital soon to do some more digging and digitizing. Nebraska is a great state, often underrated, and Lincoln is a beautiful and fun city. I look forward to my return.