Bill Farmer Gallery

The Beginnings: An Omaha Backyard

    In August of 1969 Thomas Rudloff acquired, through an agreement with Duchesne College of Omaha, the remainder of books from a sale there.  He took the books and sold them out of his back yard.   From this humble beginning in less than one summer Tom made the jump from out doors on tables to his own building the very next year.  

    He actually went to Books and Magazine Unlimited at 1210 Farnam to ask if the owner would buy his collection, but instead the owner offered to sell his store.  The date of the opening for the first building was sometime between the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970.  

    In July of 1974 through a grant with Urban Renewal Refugees the store moved location to 1215 Harney Street.  Moving of the store was necessitated by the building of the Gene Leahy Mall.  The new store was to be the home of a few new businesses including a comic book store, an antique shop, and the world famous Antiquarium Record Shop.  The store formally opened in November 1974 at the 1215 Harney Street address.  Many renovations were made to house the ever expanding inventory, including adding a new wing, making more shelves, adding a second level to the main room, and a newly built room dubbed the Rare Book Room.  These and many other types of updates made the store an art lover/bibliophiles dream come true.  

    The store hosted two art galleries; one for artists - both native and from abroad, and the other a permanent gallery for Bill Farmer's works that span decades.  You can find out more about Bill Farmer and his history here at  Be sure you click on all text to get a complete picture for what this man was capable of.  Bill Farmer had a personal workspace on the third(?) floor of the Harney Street Antiquarium for many years where he cast his own bronze sculptures, painted large mural like paintings, and created a vast amount of graphite drawings to name a few of the mediums he worked in. 

    The Antiquarium played host too many art openings, ad hoc discussions that varied in topic as much as the people it included, R.E.A.S.O.N.  discussions, A.A. meetings, N.A. meetings, concerts on the second floor, concerts on the second floor, family get gatherings, Christmas parties, and even a wedding.

    As time went by costs of improving the store's 3rd and 4th floors seemed to outweigh their potential return. It seems that this historic building with its many peculiarities and rising costs in general the Antiquarium closed its doors in Omaha in September of 2007.  

    It however was not defeated, with the renovation of the Brownville grade school and gymnasium it managed to become even more spectacular, showcasing a grand room that houses a majority of the books.  With a humble opening sometime in the spring of 2008 the store was looking forward to its first customers even though parts of it were still under construction.  With much of the wood shelving and other material recycled from the old store.  Al Strong and others were able to create a second level in the gymnasium and some shelving for the Rare Book.   Al Strong was the chief architect behind the elevated balcony that encircles the grand room.  More work is being done in fits and spurts to fully realize the potential of a former school house.  There are plans to turn the current workshop into another viable room for housing books, but it will have to wait for the time being.    

    As for the name of the store, Thomas Rudloff chose the name “Antiquarium” after returning from a trip to Germany. The German word “antiquariat” means secondhand bookstore and the English word “antiquarian” is that which relates to antiques or antiquities, especially rare and old books.  

    If you have looked around our site you may have noticed our webstore and its limited amount of titles for sale, you can find a broader selection on our Facebook page.

  There is, however, a section online that lists some of the hard to find titles from the Antiquarium.  Although it may be dated it is still worthy of your perusal.  The Rare Book Room contains a fine collection of small press items from Harry Duncan and others. Find out more about Harry Duncan press items here.    

  Other finds in the RBR include, first editions signed and unsigned, oop, Easton Press, Folio, and ephemera.  One of the main focal points of the RBR is a ten volume set of Walt Whitmans complete writings in their original oil cloth dust jackets.  Published in 1902 the set if in fine condition and retails for $12,000.  You however will find it for less by clicking our "Shop Now" button on our Facebook link provided above.