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Good For Kids
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There were a number of life like statutes located around the first floor too, and included audio recordings.
The Durham Museum
Closest available address
801 South 10th Street Omaha, NE 68108
Open Sun. 1pm- 5pm, Mon. 10am-5pm, Tue. 10am-8pm, Wed- Sat. 10am-5pm.
Best time to visit
The Durham Museum is primarily a history museum and is located in a former train station in downtown Omaha. Exhibits include trains and railroad equipment, Omaha and the American West, rare coins, and also photographs. There also are rotating temporary exhibits, such as one about Egypt (in July 2015). The Durham is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, which enables it to display items from the Smithsonian collection. Behind the Durham building are multiple rail lines and beyond them is another former rail station. In addition to the various exhibits, there is a large gift shop at the museum and an old fashioned soda shop/restaurant.
The Durham train station opened in 1931 and was built in a bold art deco style. The most impressive feature of the building is the main hall which is 160 feet long and 65 feet high. It’s lofty and iconic. The majestic design of this grand hall surely added a sense of excitement for travelers at the commencement of their journeys. A series of lifelike statues of travelers situated around the main hall enhances the historical experience. As tastes and technologies changed over the years, rail travel diminished in importance. This led to the station’s closure in 1971. The building was later donated to the city of Omaha in 1973. It opened as a western heritage museum a couple years later. Several renovations and expansions have taken place over time. The collection themes have broadened as well.
This was a hard museum to get a handle on because the exhibits were fairly varied. Trains are certainly a prominent display; rail passenger cars from the 1940s and 1950s are available to walk through and were interesting to inspect. A gallery next to the main hall also had information about trains and the rail station. Additional galleries downstairs had exhibits about the American west such as on Indians, buffaloes and early European settlers. There was a decent mix of timelines, photos and models. Also some larger exhibits like an Indian dwelling and historic covered wagons were available to walk through or around. Omaha themed displays also covered more recent times like a post Word War II typical house and kitchen. One of the more interesting displays pertained to a 19th century World's Fair and included an elaborate model of the fair buildings. For numismatists, the coin collection will be a draw. It was a private collection which was later was donated to the city of Omaha. For a general audience though, coins are unlikely to hold much interest.
As for the museum itself, it rated about average. While the building was great and is worth a look for it's architecture and style, learning about the history of Omaha and the American west was not especially memorable or notable. Even for a history buff, it's just not a scintillating topic. The museum collection can be seen quickly though, so it can work if you only have an hour and feel like getting a local historical perspective. The first visit here took place around noon, and the place was mobbed with loud schoolchildren. Returning around 6:00pm that evening was immensely more pleasant; there were only a handful of other visitors, and the atmosphere was relaxed and subdued. If you can avoid weekends and holidays, it should enhance your experience as well - just keep your overall museum expectations in check.
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