CH 8

Rotunda


Nebraska's Resources

Lesson 2 - Laboring in Nebraska

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These murals portray the laborsLabor refers to a task, job or work assignment of human life. The mural "Labors of the Hand" shows industrialhaving to do with manufacturing a product works. "Labors of the Heart" depicts humanitarianhaving to do with helping people by getting rid of pain and suffering works. "Labors of the Head" has intellectualmental or involving use of the mind works as its subject. (Reset image)

You find these murals right in the heart of this building.  The governor comes here to the Rotunda for celebrations and special events.  The public and the senators pass through here to get to the legislative chamber.  Supreme Court justices can walk by on their way to the Supreme Court Chamber.  And these working folks are here to remind everybody of one of Nebraska's most important resources-- people.  People have lived in Nebraska for over twelve thousand years!

Hartley Burr Alexander, who chose the themes used throughout the Capitol, thought it was very important to have these themes here to fully express human life.  Alexander decided on the themes for the mural spaces while the Capitol was being built in the 1920's, but these murals weren't painted until 1956.

Hildreth Meiere, the mosaic artist, put the Mother Earth floor panel showing a human family right at the center of the Rotunda floor, to signify that human life exists with all the foundations of life depicted in the rest of the rotunda floor.

Kenneth Evett, a professor of art, won the competition to paint the murals.  He painted them on canvas in his studio in New York state.  He used an abstract style.  Things look flat and geometric-- you can see circles, squares, and other shapes.


These murals fit the artistic taste of his time, but Evett's murals also blend in with the Capitol's architecture and floor mosaics.  For Evett, it was a project that really used his head, hand, and heart.

Native American's hunting bison 0802_0401

The Native Americans, the first people who lived here, hunted and fished, and eventually grew crops and farmed.

drawing of fur traders at trade center 0802_0402

When the first Europeans came, they brought manufactured goods to trade for the furs the Native Americans supplied from their hunting, trapping, and skinning. Explorers brought scientists and artists with them, mapping and recording images of what they found.

Fort Crook in Omaha 0802_0502
Courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Omaha District.

Eventually, the U.S. military entered the state and built forts that became centers of trade.  Travelers seeking new lives west of Nebraska passed through, using steamboats and then wagons, frequenting trading posts.

Photo of early 1850's Nebraska town 0802_0601

Once Nebraska became a territory, travel and freighting became big businesses in Nebraska.  Builders, bankers, merchants, innkeepers, and craftsmen set to work, along with teamsters, drivers, blacksmiths, and whip makers.

photo of immigrant farmer 0802_0602

With coming of the railroad, new populations came to Nebraska rather than through Nebraska, hoping to make their fortune.  The majority were farmers.  By 1860, farmers made up 40 percent of the workforce in Nebraska.  They farmed to feed themselves at first, and then began to produce enough to sell to markets in St. Louis and other places.

Some of the immigrants had lived in the eastern United States.  Others came from Europe. Others brought along cultural ideas about the value of work and the importance of independence.

photo of Willa Cather 0802_0702
Carl Van Vechten Photographs collection

Eventually towns and cities developed; schools, colleges and universities were founded; and performing artists arrived in Nebraska in opera houses and other places. 

Nebraska life inspired writers like Willa Cather and Mari Sandoz.

The arts are alive in Nebraska’s schools, galleries, sculpture gardens, theatres, music halls, and studios.  Writers like Nebraska’s official State Poet, Twyla M. Hansen, are still inspired by life here.

To learn more about Twyla Hansen see "New Nebraska state poet not afraid to get dirty" and the state poet ceremony video.

Photo of Mari Sandoz 0802_0703
Courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society

photo montage of immigrants, african american farmers, etc 0802_0801

Nebraska would be a very different state if only hunters lived here -- or if only farmers settled the land.  Each group that came here brought a different set of skills, as well as a different set of needs that others could work to meet.

By the 21st century, farmers were no longer the majority in Nebraska.  Agriculture was still important, but other kinds of work also helped Nebraska's economy.   New techniques for both agriculture and other industries were being explored at the state's colleges and universities.  Telecommunications and technology, manufacturing, retail, and even education itself had become important forces in Nebraska’s economy.

The arts are alive in Nebraska’s schools, galleries, sculpture gardens, theatres, music halls, and studios.  Writers like Nebraska’s official State Poet, Twyla M. Hansen, are still inspired by life here.

http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/news/twyla-hansen-state-poet-ceremony
Sources: http://humanitiesnebraska.org/program/nebraska-state-poet/

https://www.loc.gov/rr/main/poets/nebraska.html

The shifts in Nebraska's economy have challenged the hands, heads, and hearts of Nebraskans.  The state faces choices about bringing in new industries that might affect the state's environment.  There are also challenges when a business wants to bring in new workers and when those who live here need to be encouraged to stay.  Meeting these challenges will take all kinds of people laboring with their heads and hands and hearts.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT . . .
What kind of labor interests you-- labor of the head, of the heart, or of the hands?

Describe labor that uses head, heart, AND hands.

Show What You Know!

A Labor of Love

True or False

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