A Letter From Our Director
On June 30, 2014, the Arkansas House of Representatives convened a special session at the Old State House Museum. The last time the House formally convened at the Old State House was in 1909, as Arkansas entered the Progressive Era. The 37th General Assembly passed laws to prevent lynching, to provide artificial limbs to former Confederate soldiers and sailors, and to create the agricultural colleges that are now Arkansas State University, Arkansas Tech, Southern Arkansas University, and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. At the urging of Governor George Donaghey, the 1909 legislature proposed a constitutional amendment that established initiative and referendum; the voters of Arkansas ratified the amendment in 1910.
More than a century later, the return of Arkansas legislators to the Old State House for the sake of lawmaking served as a powerful reminder of the original purpose of this beautiful old building,and it underscored the Museum’s mission to preserve the Old State House, to interpret Arkansas history from 1836 to the present, and to collect and interpret artifacts that aid in that interpretation and preservation.
The Old State House Museum also announced two major events on June 30: its reaccreditation and the creation of the School Bus Fund. The Museum was awarded accreditation for the third time by the American Alliance of Museums. AAM accreditation is the highest national recognition possible for a museum. Only 3% of the 35,000 museums in the United States are accredited. Accreditation assures our audience, peers, and stakeholders that the Museum is, in the words of the Accreditation Committee, “a good steward of its resources held in the public trust and committed to a philosophy of continual institutional growth.” To persevere in our stewardship of Arkansas’s most important historical artifacts (including the building itself )and in the growth that allows us to offer Arkansas history to more and more people, the Old State House Museum needs the continued involvement and support of you, our stakeholders.
The 2013-2014 school year brought over 7,000 young people to the Old State House Museum. From Deer to Piggott, from Helena to Horatio, 88 Arkansas schools sent groups for tours and programs.The numbers are good, but we felt we could bring in more students, so we created the School Bus Fund. Administered by the Arkansas Humanities Council, the School Bus Fund will offer grants of up to $500 to schools statewide to cover the cost of transportation to and from the Old State House Museum. For information on contributing to the School Bus Fund, please visit schoolbusfund.com. Fiscal 2014 was another year of remarkable fiscal stability at the Old State House Museum. Arkansas’s 1/8-cent conservation sales tax and the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Grant remain vital to the Museum’s ability to carry out its mission. Funds from these sources allowed the Museum to collect artifacts, to install a new exhibit, and to carry out major improvements to several key public spaces within the Old State House. The willing and ongoing support of the people of Arkansas allows us to preserve the Old State House and to continue to educate the public about the history of this great state. On behalf of the Old State House Commission and the staff of the Old State House Museum, thank you.
Bill Gatewood, Director