My cousin from Greece is in town and we decided to tour Little Rock this weekend. One stop we made was the Old State House Museum, the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. The State House served as the state capitol until 1911. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969 and was declared a National Historic landmark in 1997.
I always love making a stop through the building and admission is free so you can’t go wrong. New exhibits are continuously coming through- a favorite of mine is Badges, Bandits and Bars: Arkansas Law & Justice, which explores the state’s history of crime and law enforcement.
Another sheds light on the evolution of Arkansas’s backwoods, hillbilly image. Arkansas/Arkansaw: A State and its Reputation, explores both the favorable and unfavorable parts of this history. As a native Arkansan, I found it fascinating. And it was a great outlet
for my cousin to better understand the state she was visiting.
Perhaps best symbolized by the story of the Arkansas Traveler, the exhibit reveals the early development of a dual image, with Arkansawyers being portrayed as coarse and violent backwoodsmen on one hand, while also lifted up as noble frontiersmen – independent, honest, and humble. The exhibit examines why Arkansas became the focus for such depictions, and how some Arkansans defended their state against the
popularization of this stereotype. The exhibit curator, Brooks Blevins, believes it is important to confront these portrayals of the state, as well as one’s acceptance or denial of them. It uses a variety of artifacts, as well as video, to explore the state’s reputation. Among the artifacts included in the exhibit are souvenirs from the Ozarks; Black Oak Arkansas’ washboard; Grandpa Jones’ banjo; an almanac from Lum and Abner’s “Jot’em Down Store;” and a rare 1900 recording of the Arkansas Traveler tale.
If you want to check it out, the exhibit will be at the Old State House Museum through March 4, 2012.