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MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

The MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History opened on May 19, 2001, in the Little Rock Arsenal building, located in MacArthur Park in Little Rock (Pulaski County). It contains an eclectic mix of exhibits, mostly relating to the role of Arkansas and Arkansans in various wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Little Rock Arsenal building was erected in 1840 and was once part of a major military installation just south of downtown Little Rock. Although accounts vary, many biographers of General Douglas MacArthur say that he was born in this building on January 26, 1880. (Others say he was born in one of the nearby dwellings called Officers’ Row, which is no longer standing.) The property was given to the City of Little Rock in 1892; all other buildings of the arsenal were removed or destroyed, and the land was converted into a city park. The Aesthetic Club made the arsenal building its meeting site in 1894, and the Museum of Natural History and Antiquities (later the Museum of Discovery) was housed in the building from 1942 until 1997. After the museum moved to its present location on President Clinton Avenue in the River Market District of downtown Little Rock, the building was renovated and reopened in 2001 as the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Renovation was delayed when a tornado struck the area on January 21, 1999; the tornado made a hole in the roof of the building but left the thick stone walls unharmed. The museum is operated under the Division of Parks and Recreation of the City of Little Rock. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 28, 1970, and was named a National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994; in addition, it is part of the Camden Expedition National Historic Landmark.

Permanent exhibits in the museum include Civil War exhibits, including a room dedicated to the Camden Expedition and another room dedicated to Confederate spy David O. Dodd. A 1943 Jeep from World War II dominates another room, surrounded by documents and plaques commemorating this style of military vehicle. One room is dedicated to World War I, and another displays a portion of the museum’s collection of 4,600 photographs taken during World War II. Other rooms document the Korean War experiences of General Douglas MacArthur, the 1911 United Confederate Veterans Reunion, and the history of the Aesthetic Club. The second floor of the tower has a theater and temporary display rooms.

The museum is open seven days a week, closing on major holidays. Admission is free. Donations are accepted, and a small number of souvenirs are sold at the museum entrance.

For additional information:
MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. http://www.arkmilitaryheritage.com/index.htm (accessed July 8, 2014).

Schlesing, Amy. “Military Museum Opens in LR’s MacArthur Park.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 20, 2001, pp. 1B, 5B.

Steven Teske
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 5/6/2016

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