Exploring the Durham Museum in Omaha’s Old Union Station

Omaha’s Union Station, the first art-deco style train terminal in the country, was completed in 1931. After Amtrak took over all passenger rail service in 1971, the train station closed. It was almost demolished but was donated to the City of Omaha instead. Today the building is home to the Durham Museum with permanent exhibits that highlight Omaha area history, as well as temporary, traveling exhibits from sources like the Smithsonian.

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At first glance when you enter the Durham Museum, you may think it’s still a train station. The waiting area of the old Union Station has been preserved. The ticket windows are still there, but the area behind them is now a gift shop. The soda fountain still serves old-fashioned phosphates and ice-cream treats.

Soda FountainSculptures of those who may have traveled through the station are displayed, like a businessman checking the timetable and a porter helping a young mom and her children.

Business Traveler SculpturePorter_and_PassengersMuseum exhibits are a level below the waiting room. Union Pacific, headquartered in Omaha, is one of the highlighted features, with several railroad cars that you can walk through, including an old club car.

Union Pacific club carModel railroad fans will enjoy the extensive model railroad layout. You can also walk through an old streetcar.

StreetcarFeet getting tired? Rest them a bit in the Mutual of Omaha Theater while you view a film about the history of Omaha. Omaha is also headquarters, of course, for Mutual of Omaha, a large insurance company. The city is also big in the telecommunications industry and food processing. You’ll find exhibits on all of these industries in the museum.

Mutual of OmahaMuch of the museum focuses on how people lived, with displays ranging from Native American homes to horse-drawn wagons that transported goods and mail.

TepeeNative American homeWagonWells Fargo wagonSee a reproduction of the Buffet Store, a general store that was owned by Sidney Buffet. Sidney’s son, Ernest, organized the Buy-Rite Store Association, which purchased products in bulk and passed the savings on to customers.

Buffett StoreAnother museum exhibit features the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition that Omaha hosted in 1898. This world fair event showcased the West.

Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition 1898Temporary exhibits usually last a few months and often include hands-on activities. Currently, “Identity: An Exhibition of You” shows you, through many interactive stations, how genetics, brain chemistry and social interaction work together to make you who you are. When we were there in July the temporary exhibit also included interactive stations. The child in me could have spent the entire afternoon playing in that exhibit.

Interactive gamesRailroad buffs, history buffs or anyone wanting to know more about Omaha can spend several hours browsing the exhibits in the Durham Museum.

The Durham Museum, located at 801 South 10th Street in Omaha, is open Tuesday through Sunday, except on major holidays. Check the web site for hours and further details, including upcoming temporary exhibits and events.

Disclosure: My visit to the Durham Museum was hosted by the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Durham Museum, but any opinions expressed in this post are my own.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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