A Visit to the Old State House Museum

Zoie Clift


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 &
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.

Posted in Travel Arkansas

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