A small building in Lincoln, Nebraska houses a very unique museum. Unless you’re intentionally looking it, you will probably miss it. The small redbrick with the adorable statue of children in the front, houses the National Museum of Roller Skating.
Do you remember those slip on metal roller skates as kids? They were metal, didn’t roll very fast and slipped around the edges of your shoes in some absurd fashion, and fastened with straps and buckles around the ankles and toes.
Roller skating had a brief renaissance during the 1970’s with disco music, under a large disco ball in the roller rink, and wearing polyester pants.
Even if you grew up with only in-line skates, you will appreciate this museum and the history of those wheeled shoes.
A couple hours inside this quirky museum and you will be fascinated by the old fashioned skates, some dating from 1819. Displays highlight the “fad” skates of the 1930’s and 1940’s with their bright colors and thick metal parts. There’s even a pair of odd motorized skates. This museum houses the world’s largest collection of skates in bizarre colors, strange wheel configurations and a few skates that defy the laws of physics.
The museum has a very nice store that carries adorable skating items, like a “disco ball” key chain, as well as t-shirts with skating graphics, mugs, cups, posters, postcards, tote bags, and pins. You’ll also find one of the largest collections of books on the history of roller-skating ever assembled.
With the release of the movie, “Whip It”, about a roller derby team, you might want to linger at the museum’s display on the history of sport. Roller derby began as an endurance sport in Chicago. Roller Derby was the “American Idol” of its day. Hundreds lined up to audition for a spot on a team, and thousands of fans filled the stands.
Teams of two skated around the Chicago Coliseum in laps totaling 3,000 miles. The prizes were good and the celebrity was great. Through the years, roller derby evolved into the more physically competitive sport we know today.
Roller-skating and roller derby nearly disappeared during WWII. Sidewalk roller-skating stayed in local neighborhoods and during the 1950’s and 60’s the sport made a comeback with roller rinks opening nationwide.
The popularity of roller-skating has come and gone over the years but it never truly left. It has been re-defined by the invention of in-line skates, new sports like roller hockey, and been updated to reflect the changes in society.
Roller skates have been around for nearly two-hundred years in some form. The sport has become competitive internationally with several organizations like the USA Roller Sports Association and the Roller Skating Association International sponsoring programs and competitions worldwide.
The American Heart Association lists roller-skating as one of the best sports for exercising the entire body. That’s a great excuse to pull out those roller-blades.
The next time you’re traveling through the great city of Lincoln, Nebraska and want to learn some fun history, stop by the National Roller Skating Museum on South Street, the admission is free and it is open Mon – Fri from 9 – 5.