The Durham Museum undergoes historic ceiling restoration

The Durham Museum is restoring its historic ceilings
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 6:52 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha museum is getting some restorative work done.

“This is really an example of a place where you can come and sort of be transported back in time,” says the director of communications at the Durham Museum, Jessica Brummer. “You can see what it was like in our city in its early days, and as far as the Great Hall goes, you know, it’s awe-inspiring.”

And to keep it that way for generations to come, the Durham Museum is undergoing a four-phase restoration project.

The outside of the building was phase one, which was completed a couple of years ago. Phase two was the restoration of the Swanson Gallery, on the opposite side of the Great Hall.

Phase three is the current phase, the restoration of the ceiling near the former Service Men’s Center, and the last phase will be the Great Hall itself.

Crews are busy repairing plaster, touching up paint, and cleaning sections that may need some extra TLC.

“As you can imagine, we don’t very often get the ability to be five feet from a sixty-foot tall ceiling, so this is our chance to kind of make sure they’re really shining up there,” says Brummer.

The museum was built in 1931 and crews are using materials and techniques of the period in an effort to ensure the building’s historical significance.

“When you look up at our ceiling, you see a lot of geometric shapes, which is really prevalent in Art Deco architecture. You see a lot of silver and gold leaf, which really shines. Our massive chandeliers that hang from the ceiling, those are original to the building and each has a rosette around the top of them. There’s multiple colors, there’s multiple shapes, all sort of representing that Art Deco period of time,” Brummer says.

The Great Hall was once the Union Passenger Terminal and is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the Midwest. It was Union Pacific’s first Art Deco railroad station, the completion of which, firmly established Omaha as an important railroad terminus in the Midwest.

“We see people on a daily basis just come in and stare up at the beautiful artwork and the beautiful architecture that is this building. So, it is important to keep that going, to make sure that the next generations of field trip visitors and museum visitors all have this same experience,” Brummer says.

Ceiling renovations cost one point six million dollars made possible through a Shovel-Ready Grant through the state, as well as private donations.

The museum will remain open to visitors throughout the restoration process, which is slated for completion at the end of May.