In 1878 public-spirited citizens, led by former governor Robert W. Furnas, organized the Nebraska State Historical Society. The legislature designated the Society a state institution in 1883 and began providing financial support.
The Society's offices, library, and museum occupied various Lincoln locations until 1953, including the old university library (present Architecture Hall) and the state capitol. This building, designed by Lincoln Architect Ellery Davis and funded by a special tax levy, opened in 1953. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.