Nebraska’s Tuberculosis Hospital Featured on Documentary to Air on NET

News Release Date: 
January 22, 2020

For Immediate Release

Nebraska’s Tuberculosis Hospital Featured on Documentary to Air on NET

LINCOLN, Neb. (Jan. 22, 2020) – In the early 1900s, Nebraska was not equipped to handle the tuberculosis epidemic that was sweeping across the state. The disease was highly contagious and without a cure. To address this issue, the legislature passed a resolution in 1911 establishing the Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis.

Patients at the Nebraska Tuberculosis Hospital in Kearney.“Plague on the Plains: Stories from the Nebraska Hospital for Tuberculosis” tells the story of the hospital which operated in Kearney for 60 years, and features interviews with family members of patients and former employees. The television documentary airs on NET, Nebraska’s PBS & NPR Stations, on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. CT on NET World.

Tuberculosis sanitariums provided patients with clean living conditions, healthy food, sunlight, fresh air and bedrest. Doctors believed these were the keys to recovery. Expensive sanitariums were available for the middle and upper class, but the working poor, who were most at risk, could not afford this treatment. Nebraska’s hospital was constructed to fill the gap.

“While this was done partially for humanitarian reasons, there were other concerns: uncontrolled spread of the disease among farmers and factory workers was a large threat to the state economy,” according to documentary producer Jacob Rosdail, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Rosdail began work on the project in 2017.

The Nebraska State Hospital for Tuberculosis closed in 1972 following the development of the antibiotic streptomycin. Today, parts of it are included in what is now the G.W. Frank Museum of History and Culture and other structures on UNK’s west campus. The museum houses artifacts and information about the hospital.

“It’s become a mostly-forgotten and mythologized part of local history,” said Rosdail. The film covers the history of misconceptions that surrounded the hospital and it’s sometimes strained relationship with the Kearney community. It also offers insight into the daily life of patients, including children, and how the hospital handled racial integration.

“Plague on the Plains: Stories from the Nebraska Hospital for Tuberculosis” repeats on NET World Sunday, Feb. 9 at Noon CT; Thursday, Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m. CT; and Sunday, March 1 at 12:30 p.m. CT.

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NET, Nebraska’s PBS & NPR Stations, is the statewide public media service dedicated to creating opportunities for Nebraskans to engage with critical issues, compelling stories and quality entertainment. NET serves each of Nebraska’s 93 counties with 52,560 hours of programming each year on four television and two radio channels, plus online and mobile content. In addition to providing free, high-quality educational programming for children, NET provides programming in the arts, award-winning news and current affairs information and emergency alert services. For more information about NET, visit