Julia Burnelle “Bernie” Smade Babcock was an author and museum founder. When her husband died, leaving her with five children, she starting writing for money. She published several temperance novels and later wrote for the Arkansas Democrat. She also published a magazine, wrote plays which were performed in New York, and authored a poetry anthology.
She later became recognized as an expert on Abraham Lincoln and wrote several books about him, as well as other historical figures. For her writing skills, she became the first Arkansas woman to be included in Who’s Who in America.
In 1927, after professional curmudgeon H. L. Mencken wrote derisively of Arkansas, she decided to start a museum. The Museum of Natural History and Antiquities was first located in a Main Street storefront. In 1929, she “gave the City of Little Rock a Christmas present” by giving the museum to the city. It was relocated to the unfinished third floor of City Hall, with her as its employee. After being closed during part of the Great Depression, she relocated the museum to the Arsenal Building and reopened it as the Museum of Natural History. She was involved in the efforts to rename City Park in honor of Douglas MacArthur (who had been born there) and welcomed him when he came to Little Rock in 1952.
Following her retirement in 1953, she moved to Petit Jean Mountain where she wrote and painted.
After more name changes and a relocation, her museum is now known as the Museum of Discovery and is an anchor in the River Market district.