The Webster Exchage Building


Bertha W. Calloway on site at the Historic Webster Telephone Exchange Building;  home to Nebraska's first Black History Museum  which was organized and founded by her in 1976.  Her vast and unique collection of African and African-American history was shared with thousands of people from around the world for over 30 years.  Ms. Calloway worked tirelessly as the director, curator, one of the tour guides, and public speaker at local and regional schools and businesses throughout the midwest. The building was donated by Bertha and her late husband James T. for the specific use as a museum of Black History.

Bertha W. Calloway on site at the Historic Webster Telephone Exchange Building;  home to Nebraska's first Black History Museum  which was organized and founded by her in 1976.  Her vast and unique collection of African and African-American history was shared with thousands of people from around the world for over 30 years.  Ms. Calloway worked tirelessly as the director, curator, one of the tour guides, and public speaker at local and regional schools and businesses throughout the midwest. The building was donated by Bertha and her late husband James T. for the specific use as a museum of Black History.

The Nebraska Telephone Company building (the Webster Exchange) was home to the telephone company for many years before being sold to the Urban League of Nebraska and then to a developer who  transformed the property into an apartment building. The building was scheduled for demolition when Bertha Calloway came across while looking for a place to display her huge collection of African-American paraphernalia. She, and her late husband James T. Calloway, purchased the building in 1975 and immediately gifted it to the non-profit Great Plains Black History Museum with the clear understanding that the building would always serve as a major part of a Black History Museum. The deed to the property clearly states: to the condition that if said property should ever cease to be used as a museum, then the property shall revert to the grantors and their heirs, the wishes of the Calloways'. 
 

The promise has been broken with the hand-picked chairman of the museum's board ignoring the wishes of the Calloways' and deciding to abandon the building and relocating to an area outside of the traditional Black community. In addition, they have turned the focus away from Black history and now included "science center" in their grand plan to move the museum. 

Doing this would be no different than moving the German American population, or the Iris American population, locating a museum honoring their history and heritage on 24th and Lake Street; the heart and soul of African-American history and pride.

A "Save our Museum" committee has been formed to stop this insulting move which is a direct slap in the face of Mrs. Bertha Calloway wishes for the Black community to hold on to a historic building that is a source of pride and self-esteem for the Black community. 

This historic building that was home to the museum for over 35-years is currently in disrepair and in need of immediate attention. The first priority is the replacement of the 100-year old roof. There is also a critical need to remove an almost 20 foot tall chimney which is likely to fail and collapse onto the roof of the south wing of the building. According to engineers, if that should happen, chances are very likely that the entire south wing of the building could collapse. 

Plans are for the building to be completely restored and retrofitted with new electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, and climate control. The building will also incorporate the lasted technology in sharing the history of Black experience in Nebraska, and the true history of the greatest continent on earth...Africa.