Hastings Museum offers interesting exhibits of regional history

Hastings museum
The Hastings museum has a large exhibit on the history of Kool-Aid

Hastings is a small city, sitting almost smack-dab in the center of Nebraska. Most people may think its museum is just another small town museum. They’d be wrong. The Hastings Museum of Nature and Cultural History covers the history of the region with outstanding exhibits and great facts.

The museum covers the history of Nebraska – from its days as a sea to contemporary times. A walk through the Hastings Museum is truly a fantastic walk through time.

As you walk into the main exhibit area, you see some impressive items from the state’s past. Nebraska was part of the Cretaceous inland sea 82 million years ago. While dinosaurs roamed different areas of the United States, giant creatures swam under the sea. Interested in catching a 17-foot long fish? Um, think again. The Xiphactinus replica would likely see you as the “catch of the day.”

Hastings museum
Prehistoric creatures swam in Nebraska’s sea

A 30-foot replica of a Tylosaurus joins the fish on display. They and a giant turtle hang from the ceiling. The Tylosaurus was a vicious predator during its day.

Moving along, we visited a gallery of stuffed animals. Wildlife dioramas explore animals’ natural habitats. The animals on display were donated through the years. You can see polar bears in the arctic, moose with large racks fighting for domination, as well as a prairie dog community. The gallery offers visitors an interesting look at animals you won’t see in our state.

Hastings museum
Brown bears are part of the museum’s large collection of animal dioramas

A look at life on the prairie is natural since the Husker State is in the center of the region. A look into the early days of Nebraska includes Native American and pioneer lives.

Hastings museum
Museum explores Native American life on the prairie

The museum does an excellent job of using dioramas and artifacts in telling people’s stories. You can see life as a member of a Native tribe. The museum explores both the farming tribes and the migratory tribes. Depending on their location, tribes depended more on the soil for their sustenance or the American bison.

The Hastings Museum has a lot of Native American artifacts on display. It attempts to focus on regional tribes, such as the Omaha, Winnebago, Pawnee, Ponca and Santee Sioux.

Hastings museum
Pioneer life is explored

The museum also takes a look at life on the plains for the pioneers. A replica of a sod house shows what home may have looked like for our early homesteaders.

Hastings museum
Settlers’ farm equipment

Farming equipment is also on exhibit to help visitors better understand how settlers worked the land for crops and development.

Vehicles once used to drive around Hastings and the region offer visitors an opportunity to view early automobiles.

Hastings museum
The museum has a neat car collection

Visitors can take a look at a part of Hastings’ fire department history – with a horse-drawn water cart or an early fire engine.

Hastings museum
Horse-drawn water hose cart from the fire department’s early days

Hastings may be best known as the home of Kool Aid. It was invented here. Edwin Perkins created the powdered drink in 1927. He did so in an effort to better market a popular soft drink mix. Who knew that it would take off and remain popular for decades?

Hastings museum
History of Kool-Aid

The museum has a large section of its lower level gallery dedicated to its story. From the day when his father traded a farm to a general store, it seemed young Perkins was destined to create the drink that almost everyone has consumed.

Hastings museum
Replica of the Perkins’ storefront

The exhibit explores Perkins’ life, and then moves to the story of Kool Aid. Perkins eventually sold the drink mix to larger companies. It has been owned by different major corporations through the years and isn’t manufactured in Nebraska, but it remains a great business success story.

The Hastings Museum hosts temporary exhibits throughout the year, including one on the “Peanuts” comic strip gang and Hastings’ sister city Ozu, Japan. Current special exhibits include an interactive visit of Nebraska’s natural environment and nanoscale science.

Hastings museum
The museum hosted a special exhibit highlighting the “Peanuts” gang

In addition to the exhibits we visited, the museum offers displays on the Hastings Naval Ammo Depot (from World War II) and weapons used by early settlers.

We could have spent a lot more time at the museum during our visit. We plan to return for a follow-up visit. We highly recommend checking out the Hastings Museum.

For more information, please visit www.hastingsmuseum.org.