It’s not every day that you celebrate your 183rd birthday, but that’s what the state of Arkansas is doing! On June 15, 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state, marking a new era in our history. While things sure have changed in the intervening 183 years, visitors to downtown Little Rock can get a feel for what life was like in the 1800’s and beyond at several local museums.
At the Historic Arkansas Museum step back through time to walk the streets of territorial Arkansas and discover the museum’s collection of 19th century buildings. A blacksmith shop, farmstead and a grog shop are just a few of the structures that are open daily. Living history actors and indoor exhibits detailing territorial life in Arkansas add to the experience making the museum as must-see stop for history lovers wishing to celebrate not only Arkansas’s 183rd birthday, but its 200th anniversary of becoming a territory!
Just a few blocks away, see what it was like to be a legislator during the early days of statehood at the Old State House Museum, the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Housed in the state’s first capitol building, the museum focuses on Arkansas history with exhibits ranging from the gowns of Arkansas’s First Ladies to intricate handmade quilts stretching back to the Civil War. The House of Representatives Chamber has been restored to its appearance from the 1840s and museum visitors are invited to walk through the desks and imagine themselves as early Arkansas legislators.
The history and culture of African Americans in Arkansas is celebrated and preserved at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. The museum takes its name from the Mosaic Templars of America, a black fraternal organization founded in Little Rock in the years following the Civil War. Exhibits include features on Little Rock’s “Little Harlem” West Ninth Street —once a hub for African American-owned businesses in Little Rock— and on the changing lives of black Arkansas in the years after emancipation through to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
As the only National Park that is also a fully operational high school, Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is literal living history. Walk in the footsteps of the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to integrate the school in 1957. Guided tours by National Park Rangers wind through the halls of the high school and through the annals of history during tours of this historic institution.
Arkansas was thrust onto a global stage with the election of Bill Clinton as the 42nd president of the United States in 1992. The Clinton Presidential Center’s museum follows his journey from boyhood in Hope, Arkansas, to his eight years in the White House. Exhibit highlights include a replication of the Oval Office and the summer-long exhibit “Washed Ashore” featuring large scale art installations made from plastic debris recovered from beaches around the world.
If you ever thought history was maybe not for you, or just a little on the dry side, Little Rock is here to show you otherwise. Come see us and make some history of your own.