Make this summer historic

Three free events taking place at downtown Little Rock museums this summer will take you back in time—and we’d expect nothing less from the Arkansas Department of Heritage! The first takes place this weekend at the Old State House Museum, which served as Arkansas’s State Capitol from 1836 to 1911, when construction was completed on the building we know as the Capitol today.

The Arkansas Statehood Celebration commemorates the 181st anniversary of Arkansas becoming a state and features a live-action role-playing program to experience what life was like in Arkansas at the time when it became a state. In this year’s statehood celebration theme, “Work and Play,” participants will interact with living history re-enactors while learning how to earn and spend wages in antebellum Arkansas. Professions to be explored include lawyer, tavern keeper, skilled craftsperson, performer and speculator; entertainments to be pursued include gambling, shopping, games and sports. Don’t miss the horse race and puppet show. 

Ark statehood logo 1836 r1

More-recent history will be explored in a new photography exhibit opening next week at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. “Not Forgotten: An Arkansas Family Album” features the work of documentary portrait photographer Nina Robinson, who came to Arkansas from New York in 2014 when her grandmother fell ill. Though she originally intended to stay for only a short time, she ended up spending three months here, documenting the life of her grandmother, her passing, and her family’s grieving process.

An accomplished photographer whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Lens Culture, American Photo and The Wall Street Journal, Robinson is based in the South Bronx and Arkansas. This exhibition was curated by the Bronx Documentary Center. A free, opening reception featuring a chance to meet the artist will take place on Thursday, June 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Last but certainly not least, Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the official end of slavery in the United States, will take place in Arkansas on Saturday, June 17 with events across the state. In Little Rock, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will host a day-long program of education and entertainment in various downtown locations.

Highlights of the packed schedule include:

  • Performances by V.I.C. (the artist behind the viral hit “Wobble”), iHeartMemphis (of “Hit the Quan” fame), and gospel sensation Tasha McIntosh
  • Tours of Taborian Hall and Dreamland Ballroom
  • Screenings of the AETN documentary “Dream Land,” about Little Rock’s West 9th Street, and the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. documentary “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise”
  • A kids zone with rock climbing, laser tag, inflatables and more 
  • Food trucks and vendors galore

Last year’s Juneteenth boasted more than 50 vendors and 2,000 attendees, and this year promises to be even bigger.