Historic Arkansas Museum is celebrating its 75th diamond anniversary by offering free educational field trip programs to any school in Arkansas that comes to the museum in 2016. This project will be funded by the Bill Worthen Future of History Fund which is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of Arkansas history lovers.
Historic Arkansas Museum provides a variety of engaging and interactive field trip programs throughout the year in addition to popular annual programs such as the Spring and Fall School Fairs and the Before Freedom program in February during Black History Month.
Educators can begin the reservation process by submitting a field trip request form. To learn more about participating in this program, educators are invited to contact the museum’s director of education, Joleen Linson or call 501-324-9351.
Each year schoolchildren from around the state come to the museum and experience history first hand. Some churn butter—with amazement, as they learn that butter doesn’t come from the grocery store. Others imagine themselves as early Arkansans, travelling west and deciding what to bring with them, in our Packing to Go program. Students leave knowing more about their own history and they leave inspired.
What is now a showcase for Arkansas’s history, art and heritage began as a diamond in the rough—a half-block of dilapidated historic structures. Thanks to the efforts of pioneering preservationist Louise Loughborough the museum opened on July 19, 1941, as the Arkansas Territorial Capitol Restoration. Click here to watch the museum’s 75th Anniversary film produced by Cranford Co.
Following Loughborough’s foundational leadership, prominent architect Ed Cromwell led the museum through an era of growth that made the museum an anchor of a once declining downtown Little Rock. In 1972, the museum hired its first professional staff and Bill Worthen was hired as the first executive director, a title he has held for more than 40 years. Worthen made his first goal gaining museum accreditation— a complicated and rigorous process that he and museum staff pursued for nine years, achieving accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 1981 making the museum the first accredited history museum in Arkansas.
Worthen also developed and expanded the log house farmstead on museum grounds that has been central to education programs and he led the museum through its most profound expansion which culminated in the 2001 opening of the Museum Center, a project which doubled the size of the previous visitor reception space with 10,000 square feet of exhibits, a theater, a hands-on history classroom, an entrance atrium with views of the historic grounds and other amenities. Other developments under Worthen’s leadership include but are not limited to: development of the ongoing #ArkansasMade research project, the museum’s popular Living History Program, Giving Voice dedicated to those enslaved on what is now museum property, the growth of popular events such as the Christmas Frolic, Territorial Fair, Frontier Fourth of July and 2nd Friday Art Night exhibit openings, and the museum’s achievement of Smithsonian Affiliate status which made possible the opening of the Smithsonian partnership exhibit, “We Walk in Two Worlds: The Caddo, Osage and Quapaw in Arkansas.”
Countless visitors have witnessed Bill Worthen’s passion for Arkansas history and even more across the world have been impacted by his scholarly research and publications, often in partnership with deputy director and chief curator Swannee Bennett, on the subjects of Arkansas-made material culture, the Arkansas Traveler, the Bowie knife and more. As Worthen plans his retirement for the end of 2016, the Bill Worthen Future of History Fund seeks to pass on his passion for Arkansas history to future generations for decades to come.
The museum is seeking stories and memories from visitors as a part of the 75th anniversary celebration. Everyone is invited to share their memories and stories of their experiences at the museum by emailing Chris Hancock, tagging Historic Arkansas Museum on Facebook, or tagging @HistoricArk on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #HAM75.
Currently on exhibit:
- Ray Parker
- Neal Harrington and David Carpenter
- Art. Function. Craft: The Life and Work of Arkansas Living Treasures
- Maps of Arkansas, 1822 – 1856
- Niloak Art Pottery Figurines (Benton, AR, 1909 – 1946)
- Carver Magnet Elementary School Stained Glass Art Project
- Arkansas Made Gallery (permanent)
- We Walk in Two Worlds: The Caddo, Osage and Quapaw in Arkansas (permanent)
- The Knife Gallery (permanent)
- Historic Homes (permanent)
Historic Arkansas Museum is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to the galleries and parking are free; admission to the historic grounds is $2.50 for adults, $1 for children under 18, $1.50 for senior citizens. The Historic Arkansas Museum Store is open 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1 – 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Historic Arkansas Museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, which was created in 1975 to preserve and enhance the heritage of the state of Arkansas. Other agencies of the department are Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas Arts Council, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Old State House Museum.