“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Who goes to Nebraska? Is a question I continue to ask myself why I did (because I was nearby for a wedding). Like many other destinations in middle America, there are plenty of things to do in Nebraska, but as I reflect on my brief time there, there is one cultural attraction that is worth making the trip back to Omaha for.
Conveniently, Omaha Eppley Airfield is located minutes from The Durham Museum (801 S. 10th St., Omaha, NE 68108), and until September 3, visitors can catch the current exhibit James Cameron — Challenging the Deep, the North American Premiere.
Explore the spectacular and mysterious abyss and discover the shipwreck of Titanic by being immersed in an underwater world that traces explorer and filmmaker Cameron’s passion for deep ocean science, technology, and exploration, including material on his record-breaking dive to the bottom of the planet in the Deepsea Challenger, the submersible he co-designed and co-engineered, which was built to withstand water pressure of 16,000 lbs. per square inch. This underwater environment is made possible via cinema-scale projections, artifacts, and specimens from his expeditions.
While Nebraska may be known for agriculture and natural attractions (plains, sand dunes, and towering rock formations), it actually has ties to the Titanic. According to the “History Nebraska blog”, one of the Titanic fatalities was 48-year old Emil Brandeis of Omaha, a partner with his brothers Arthur and Hugo in the well-known Brandeis department store. Emil had been visiting Europe and was returning to the United States. His body was recovered and his cremated remains were buried in Omaha. His pocket watch, found on his body, is in the collections of the Durham Museum
Carl Olaf Johnson, 21, was coming to Nebraska from his native Sweden to join his brother Eric, a Saunders County farmer. Johnson jumped from Titanic before the ship went down and clung to a piece of wreckage until picked up by a lifeboat. He reached his brother’s farm in Nebraska, was drafted to serve in World War I and died in Wahoo in 1978. His experiences earned him the nickname “Titanic Carl” Johnson.
From the Kearney Daily Hub, May 7, 1912:
Like Carl Johnson, Victor Halva, a 20-year-old Moravian (German-speaking Protestant), was leaving Europe to avoid military conscription. Unlike Johnson, Halva did not buy a ticket on Titanic but instead, managed to sneak aboard as a stowaway. He, too, was plucked from the icy North Atlantic by one of the lifeboats. Halva came to Lynch, Nebraska, where his uncle lived, and later moved to O’Neill, where he died in 1958. He also served in the U.S. military during World War I.
John Kuhl of Randolph, Nebraska, was traveling to Europe on board Carpathia and witnessed that vessel’s rescue of Titanic survivors. Kuhl, who had previously been speaker of the house in the Nebraska Legislature, had to defer his European trip when Carpathia returned to New York with the rescued passengers.
Another notable exhibit coming to The Durham Museum is Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is the major new global touring exhibition that takes visitors on a personal journey through the life of the world’s most iconic freedom fighter and political leader. From March 5-July 3, 2022. Presented in association with Round Room Live, the exhibition is an immersive and interactive experience that features previously unseen film, photos, and the display of over 150 historical artifacts and personal effects on loan from the Mandela family, museums, and archives worldwide.
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition is designed to educate, entertain and inspire using many personal belongings and objects never previously seen outside of South Africa. These items, including the suit worn for the opening of the South African parliament in 1996; a traditional headdress gifted to him by The King of Xhosa people, King Xolilzwe Sigcawu as he awarded Mandela the ancient tribal warrior honor of the Isithwalandwe Sesizwe, for the ﬁrst time in two centuries; his presidential desk and chair and his much loved iconic beige trench coat, combine with immersive media presentations and scenic re-creations, to enable visitors to actively engage with and experience key moments in Nelson Mandela’s life.
Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition reveals his epic story in a series of experiential zones. It takes visitors on Mandela’s life journey, from his little-known beginnings in rural Mvezo, Transkei, through decades of turbulent struggle against the apartheid regime, to his eventual vindication and final years as South Africa’s first black president, ‘Father of South Africa’, and a globally loved and respected figure. Lawyer. Revolutionary. Political prisoner. World leader. Elder statesman. Symbol of the struggle against oppression. Nelson Mandela has been all these things to so many people across the world in the past 50 years and five years after his passing, he continues to remain a human rights icon and to be seen globally as an advocate for change.
Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela says of the exhibition: “The Royal House of Mandela is delighted to endorse this exhibition honoring the life and legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as it truly captures the spirit of our global icon whose name has become synonymous with international solidarity, justice, and peace. It succeeds in quintessentially depicting the man and the legend whose struggle and sacrifice have captivated the hearts and minds of millions around the world. This exhibition is truly an inspiration and an inspired effort; I believe that everyone who sees it will agree that the legacy lives on and that the dream will never die.”
The exhibition appreciates the support and involvement of several South African Heritage Partners including institutions and individuals who are contributing to the exhibition content. These Heritage Partners include The Robben Island Museum, The Liliesleaf Heritage Site, Mqhekezweni – The Great Place, Christo Brand, and Zelda la Grange.
The Durham Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, which allows their collections and resources widely available. For more information about The Durham Museum visit https://durhammuseum.org/.