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The Van Buren County Historical Society, headquartered in Clinton (Van Buren County), was organized on April 22, 1963. The society disbanded in 1966 but re-formed in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial, Clinton’s celebration of its centennial as an incorporated city, and the dedication of the Clinton Airport.
The function of the society is: 1) to discover and collect any material that would help establish or illustrate the history of the county, its exploration, settlement, and development, and its progress in population, education, arts, science, agriculture, trade, and transportation; 2) to collect and preserve printed materials and museum materials illustrative of life, conditions, events, and activities of the past or present pertaining to Van Buren County; and 3) to make these items accessible for examination or study. The society cooperates with officials to ensure the preservation and accessibility of the records and archives of the county, and assists the county and its citizens—whenever possible—in the preservation of historical buildings, monuments, and markers.
In the late 1980s, in response to the need for a permanent meeting place and facility to display the growing collection of donated historical materials, members of the society made plans to purchase a building that once housed a local cheese plant. The building cost $13,000. With only $3,000 earned from the publication of the society’s first history book, society members—a group of women made up mostly of retired schoolteachers—met with officials of the local bank and convinced them to loan the society the money to purchase the building. The bank agreed, and the loan was repaid on a monthly basis. The society raised money by soliciting donations, selling publications, sponsoring chili and spaghetti suppers, catering meals, and holding rummage sales. Volunteer labor helped to defray the cost of remodeling the building and converting it into a museum. By-laws were written, and a constitution that met the legal requirements for the establishment of a nonprofit organization was approved on November 14, 1989.
As its bicentennial project beginning in 1976, the society wrote and published A History of Van Buren County, Arkansas, which covers the periods of early settlements in the 1830s through the development of Greers Ferry Lake and Fairfield Bay (Van Buren and Cleburne counties) in the 1970s. Histories and stories included in the book came from representatives in various communities, and special areas of history were covered by experts in government, law, education, and health; as of 2012, the book is in its third printing. In 1985, the society began publication of the Van Buren County Historical Journal. With a contribution of $3,000 from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the society published its second book, A Pictorial History of Van Buren County, 1890–1990, in 1990; this book is in its second printing as of 2012.
Since the opening of the museum, more books have been published and additions have been made to the building. The latest addition is a research library to house the growing collection of genealogy research material and family history files. All materials are available to researchers. The museum, located at 211 3rd Street, is open Monday–Friday, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and is staffed entirely by volunteers.
For additional information:“Efforts to Install Museum Explained to Clinton City Council.” Van Buren County Democrat, February 15, 1989, pp. 1A, 2A.
“Historical Society Buys Building to Be Used for County Museum.” Van Buren County Democrat, November 30, 1988, p. 10A.
“History in the Making.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, River Valley and Ozark Edition, June 29, 1997, p. 1R.
Van Buren County Historical Society. http://www.ntanet.net/nta/historical.html (accessed September 11, 2012).
Sharon BakerVan Buren County Historical Society
Last Updated 10/8/2012
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