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Museums

Arkansas’s many museums—most focusing on state and local history, science, and military history—are an important part of Arkansas’s culture, as they promote education and the preservation of valuable artifacts.

The University of Arkansas Museum in Fayetteville (Washington County), which was founded in 1873, is most likely the first public museum in Arkansas. (The university maintains the collections of the museum, though there is no dedicated museum space as of 2013.) Another early museum is the Fort Smith Museum of History, originally called the Old Commissary Museum, which was founded in 1910 in a building built in 1838; the present-day museum is located in a different historic building, the Atkinson-Williams Building. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities (which later became the Museum of Discovery) was founded in 1927 in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by Bernie Babcock and displayed a variety of artifacts, including many from Native Americans, pioneers, and the Civil War. Moved to the River Market district of Little Rock in 1998 after being housed in several Little Rock locations, the Museum of Discovery changed its focus to earth, physical, and life sciences. The Arkansas State University Museum in Jonesboro (Craighead County) was established in 1933 by the Arkansas State College History Club. Its exhibits are mostly historical and archaeological artifacts, and it is the largest museum in northeastern Arkansas.

Arkansas has seven museums that have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). This honor is given to museums that meet rigorous standards for security, curatorial practice, and education. An accredited museum is more likely to receive government grants and to borrow exhibits from other institutions, such as the Smithsonian Institution. The AAM-accredited museums in Arkansas are the Arkansas State University Museum, the Museum of Discovery, Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, the Rogers Historical Museum in Rogers (Benton County), the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, and the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County).

Other notable museums in Arkansas are the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs (Garland County), the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, and the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park near Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties). The Mid-America Science Museum won the Parents’ Choice Award for best museum for families in 1995 and partners with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for space education. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center, the official presidential library of former president Bill Clinton, includes a replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room in Washington DC and also hosts traveling exhibitions. The Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, opened to the public in 1980, serves as both a historical landmark and a museum of Native American artifacts.

There are many museums of local history in Arkansas, such as the Grant County Museum in Sheridan (Grant County) and the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). Arkansas also has many biographical museums. Usually located in historic homes, these museums display artifacts related to the life of a specific person. Examples of this are the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site in Hope (Hempstead County), the Collin Raye Museum in De Queen (Sevier County), and the John H. Johnson Museum in Arkansas City (Desha County). There are also various history museums with a specialized theme, such as Gangster Museum of America in Hot Springs, which focuses on illegal gambling, and the Arkansas Country Doctor Museum in Lincoln (Washington County), which focuses on the history of doctors and medicine.

Art museums in Arkansas include the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Benton County), and the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum. Arkansas also has several cultural museums, such as the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, which celebrates the achievements of African Americans, and the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville. Central High School in Little Rock is a National Historic Site that explores the history of the school’s desegregation crisis in 1957–1958.

Arkansas has military museums such as the Arkansas National Guard Museum in North Little Rock (Pulaski County); aviation museums including the Arkansas Air Museum in Fayetteville; and a wide variety of specialized museums such as the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum in Paris (Logan County), the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, the Daisy Airgun Museum in Rogers, and the Four States Auto Museum in Texarkana (Miller County).

The Arkansas Museums Association (AMA), an organization that supports and promotes museums in Arkansas, was founded in 1978. There are more than 200 members from museums around Arkansas. The AMA gives yearly awards in areas such as best website and exhibit of the year.

MUSEUM

SUBJECT

YEAR FOUNDED/OPENED

LOCATION

Arkansas Air and Military Museum

Aviation/Military

1986

Fayetteville

Arkansas Arts Center

Art

1960

Little Rock

Arkansas Country Doctor Museum

History (Medicine)

1994

Lincoln

Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame

Entertainers

1998

Pine Bluff

Arkansas Historic Wine Museum

Specialized

1967

Paris

Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum

Specialized

2005

North Little Rock

Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources

Oil and Gas Industry

1986

Smackover

Arkansas National Guard Museum

Military

1989

North Little Rock

Arkansas Post Museum

History (Local)

1960

Gillett

Arkansas Railroad Museum

Specialized

1983

Pine Bluff

Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame

Sports

1958

North Little Rock

Arkansas State University Museum

History (Local)

1933

Jonesboro

Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas

Art, Science

1968

Pine Bluff

Bauxite Historical Association and Museum

History (Local)

1986

Bauxite

Bella Vista Historical Museum

History (Local)

1985

Bella Vista

Bradley County Veterans Museum

History (Military)

2005

Warren

Bud Walton Arena Razorback Sports Museum

Sports

1993

Fayetteville

Calico Rock Museum and Visitor Center

History (Local)

2014

Calico Rock

Central Delta Depot and Museum

History (Local)

2003

Brinkley

Collin Raye Museum

History (Biography)

——

De Queen

Clayton House

History (Local)

1882

Fort Smith

Crater of Diamonds State Park (exhibits)

Nature

1972

Murfreesboro

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Art

2011

Bentonville

Daisy Airgun Museum

Specialized

2000

Rogers

Darby House

History (Biography)

1978

Fort Smith

Delta Cultural Center

History (Local)

1990

Helena-West Helena

Delta Gateway Museum

History (Local)

2009

Blytheville

Drennen-Scott Historic Site Museum

History (Local)

2011

Van Buren

Drew County Museum and Archives

History (Local)

1970

Monticello

Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum

Slavery/Civil Rights

2000

Pocahontas

EMOBA (Museum of Black Arkansas and Performance Center)

History (African American)

1993

Little Rock

Eureka Springs Historical Museum

History (Local)

1971

Eureka Springs

Faulkner County Museum

History (Local)

1992

Conway

Fort Smith Air Museum

Aviation

——

Fort Smith

Fort Smith Museum of History

History (Local)

1910

Fort Smith

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum

Art

1950

Fort Smith

Four States Auto Museum

Specialized

2004

Texarkana

Gangster Museum of America

History (Specialized)

2008

Hot Springs

Gann Museum of Saline County

History (Local)

1980

Benton

Grant County Museum

History (Local)

1963

Sheridan

Gravette Historical Museum

History (Local)

1995

Gravette

Hampson Archeological Museum State Park

Historical Landmark

1961

Wilson

Headquarters House Museum and Garden

History (Local)

1967

Fayetteville

Helena Museum of Phillips County

History (Local)

1930

Helena-West Helena

Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center

History (Biography)

1999

Piggott

Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County

History (Local)

1998

Mount Ida

Historic Arkansas Museum

History (Local)

1941

Little Rock

Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash

History (Biography)

2014

Dyess

Jacksonville Museum of Military History

History (Military)

2005

Jacksonville

John H. Johnson Museum

History (Biography)

——

Arkansas City

Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum

Specialized

1971

Hot Springs

Lakeport Plantation

History (Local)

2007

Chicot County

Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Historical Landmark

2007

Little Rock

Log Cabin Museum

History (Local)

1976

Fairfield Bay

Logan County Museum

History (Local)

1972

Paris

Lonoke County Museum

History (Local)

1998

Lonoke

Lower White River Museum State Park

History (Regional)

1970

Des Arc

MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History

History (Military)

2001

Little Rock

Mark Martin Museum

Sports (Biography)

2006

Batesville

Maynard Pioneer Museum & Park

History (Local)

1980

Maynard

McCollum-Chidester House Museum

History (Biography)

1963

Camden

Mid-America Science Museum

Science

1979

Hot Springs

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

History/Culture (African American)

2008

Little Rock

Museum of American History

History

1985

Cabot

Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie

History (Regional)

1974

Stuttgart

Museum of Automobiles

Specialized

1964

Conway County

Museum of Discovery

Science

1927

Little Rock

Museum of Native American History

History/Culture (Native American)

2006

Bentonville

Museum of Prehistory and History

History/Culture

1989

Russellville

Newton House Museum

History (Local)

2009

El Dorado

Nevada County Museum and Depot

History (Local)

1976

Prescott

Old Independence Regional Museum

History (Local)

1998

Batesville

Old Jail Museum Complex

History (Local)

1966

Greenwood

Old State House Museum

History (State)

1951

Little Rock

Ozark Heritage Arts Center and Museum

Art

1990

Leslie

Parkin Archeological State Park

History (Local)

1994

Parkin

Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens

History (Biography/Local)

1992

Bentonville

Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum

History (Local)

1980

Pine Bluff

Plantation Agricultural Museum

History (Local)

1989

Scott

President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site

History (Biography)

1997

Hope

Randolph County Heritage Museum

History (Local)

2006

Pocahontas

Rogers Historical Museum

History (Local)

1974

Rogers

Saunders Memorial Museum

History (Armaments)

1955

Berryville

Scott Plantation Settlement

History (Local)

1995

Little Rock

Shiloh Museum of Ozark History

History (Regional)

1968

Springdale

Siloam Springs Museum

History (Local)

1969

Siloam Springs

Southern Tenant Farmers Museum

History (Regional/Labor)

2006

Tyronza

St. Francis County Museum

History (Local)

1995

Forrest City

St. Joe Historical Missouri and North Arkansas Depot and Museum

History (Local)

2011

St. Joe

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park

Historical Landmark

1980

Scott

Tontitown Historical Museum

History/Culture (Italian-American)

1986

Tontitown

William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Museum

History (Biography)

2004

Little Rock

Winthrop School Museum

History (Local)

1993

Winthrop

 
For additional information:

Arkansas Museums Association. http://www.armusa.org/ (accessed June 1, 2017).

Benenati, Katherine. “Measure of a Museum.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 17, 2011, pp. 1E, 6E.

Deane, Ernie. “State’s Past is Well-Preserved in Fort Smith Museums.” Arkansas Gazette, May 11, 1960, p. 1B.

Jordan, Cynthia. “Center to Bring Delta’s Past, People to Life.” Arkansas Gazette, October 17, 1990, p. 5B.

Mosby, Joe. “Toltec Mounds Open to Public, At Last.” Arkansas Gazette, August 17, 1980, p. 4B.

Anastasia Teske
North Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 6/1/2017

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