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The Faulkner County Museum is located near the Faulkner County Courthouse at 801 Locust Street in downtown Conway (Faulkner County). The museum features various exhibits of local history, including a circa 1850 dogtrot cabin, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) exhibit, and sports memorabilia from local athletes Ivan Grove, Bob Courtway, Stacy Pinkett, Elijah Pitts, Bryce Molder, and Scottie Pippen, among others. The upstairs portion of the museum showcases a model railroad built by museum volunteers. This exhibit replicates the Missouri Pacific Railroad’s path through Faulkner County.
The building housing the Faulkner County Museum was used as a jail from 1896 until 1936, when a new courthouse/jail was built by the WPA. The old jail was renovated by the WPA and then reopened as the Faulkner County Library in 1938. (The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 1978.) On March 17, 1992, a temporary sales tax was passed to pay for the construction of a new public library building in Conway. Some members of the Faulkner County Historical Society (FCHS) were interested in using the old library for the organization’s home offices and as a museum of local history, but others were concerned that the museum would not succeed. Under the leadership of FCHS president Ferris Baker, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce formed a committee to establish a county museum.
After seeking the advice of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives) and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the committee went to the Faulkner County Quorum Court with the intention of having the old library building leased to the FCHS and securing the passage of a property millage that would support the operation of the museum. The FCHS made the appeal with the support of various civic groups and private individuals who had agreed to underwrite the museum’s operating budget for five years.
However, part of the Arkansas constitution forbade the support of the private museum by a public millage. The FCHS consulted other regional museum directors and made a legal case for the creation of the museum. Arkansas Code Annotated 13-5-501 allowed the creation of the Faulkner County Museum Commission and allowed Faulkner County Judge Jesse Ferrell to appoint its members upon the recommendation of the FCHS. Under this plan, the FCHS would provide expertise for running the museum and support it with private funding from its “Friends of the Museum” program. The commission allowed the museum to be established for the public good while being supported and run as a private entity, with the FCHS serving as an intermediary between the museum and the Faulkner County government. This measure passed on July 21, 1992. County Ordinance 92-16 created the museum itself, which operated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by private donations and grants.
The Faulkner County Museum moved into the old jail/library building in 1995 and opened to the public in 1997. In the fall of 2002, the Faulkner County Quorum Court passed a voluntary millage to provide further funding for the museum.
The mission of the Faulkner County Museum is to educate the public about Faulkner County’s history. It serves as a repository for artifacts and documents, and it interprets the natural and cultural history and prehistory of Faulkner County. To serve a multicultural community, it provides a forum for the cultural expression of Faulkner County’s past through the acts of preservation and cultural expression, as well as the reconstruction of social memory. The museum fulfills its mission through long-term and short-term exhibits, school outreach activities, living history programs, involvement with FCHS activities, in-house newsletter publishing, and history in-service programs for local school teachers.
For additional information:
“Faulkner County Jail.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/FA0680.nr.pdf (accessed January 27, 2016).
Faulkner County Museum. http://www.faulknercountymuseum.org/ (accessed July 7, 2014).
Thompson, George H. “The Faulkner County Museum.” Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings 34 (Fall/Winter 1992): 8–17.
Aaron W. Rogers
Last Updated 6/8/2016
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