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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.
Arkansas Air and Military Museum
Arkansas Arts Center
Arkansas Country Doctor Museum
Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame
Arkansas Historic Wine Museum
Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum
North Little Rock
Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources
Oil and Gas Industry
Arkansas National Guard Museum
Arkansas Post Museum
Arkansas Railroad Museum
Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame
Arkansas State University Museum
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas
Bella Vista Historical Museum
Bradley County Veterans Museum
Bud Walton Arena Razorback Sports Museum
Calico Rock Museum and Visitor Center
Central Delta Depot and Museum
Collin Raye Museum
Crater of Diamonds State Park (exhibits)
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Daisy Airgun Museum
Delta Cultural Center
Delta Gateway Museum
Drennen-Scott Historic Site Museum
Drew County Museum and Archives
Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum
EMOBA (Museum of Black Arkansas and Performance Center)
History (African American)
Eureka Springs Historical Museum
Faulkner County Museum
Fort Smith Air Museum
Fort Smith Museum of History
Fort Smith Regional Art Museum
Four States Auto Museum
Gangster Museum of America
Gann Museum of Saline County
Grant County Museum
Gravette Historical Museum
Hampson Archeological Museum State Park
Headquarters House Museum and Garden
Helena Museum of Phillips County
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center
Heritage House Museum of Montgomery County
Historic Arkansas Museum
Historic Dyess Colony: Boyhood Home of Johnny Cash
Jacksonville Museum of Military History
John H. Johnson Museum
Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Log Cabin Museum
Logan County Museum
Lonoke County Museum
Lower White River Museum State Park
MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History
Mark Martin Museum
Maynard Pioneer Museum & Park
McCollum-Chidester House Museum
Mid-America Science Museum
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
History/Culture (African American)
Museum of American History
Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie
Museum of Automobiles
Museum of Discovery
Museum of Native American History
History/Culture (Native American)
Museum of Prehistory and History
Newton House Museum
Nevada County Museum and Depot
Old Independence Regional Museum
Old Jail Museum Complex
Old State House Museum
Ozark Heritage Arts Center and Museum
Parkin Archeological State Park
Peel Mansion Museum and Heritage Gardens
Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum
Plantation Agricultural Museum
President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site
Randolph County Heritage Museum
Rogers Historical Museum
Saunders Memorial Museum
Scott Plantation Settlement
Shiloh Museum of Ozark History
Siloam Springs Museum
Southern Tenant Farmers Museum
St. Francis County Museum
St. Joe Historical Missouri and North Arkansas Depot and Museum
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park
Tontitown Historical Museum
William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Museum
Winthrop School Museum
Arkansas Museums Association. http://www.armusa.org/ (accessed July 22, 2014).
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.
North Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 8/19/2016
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