Arkansas first ladies, Old State House Museum Associates team to restore historic gowns on exhibit

Old State House Museum - Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The First Ladies’ Gowns exhibit at the Old State House Museum is the largest exhibit of its kind outside the Smithsonian and by far the most popular at the museum. The exhibit features gowns worn by the first ladies alongside items of everyday life in Arkansas from the 1840s to the present.

While the gowns have always been preserved according to the highest professional standards, some deterioration with age is inevitable. The current version of the First Ladies’ Gowns exhibit is housed on the second floor of the museum, in the west wing, in cases specially designed to minimize the deterioration caused by light, dust and humidity.

During a routine survey of artifacts in 2014, the museum’s curator noticed signs of stress on certain gowns. Upon closer inspection it was decided that a textile conservator should evaluate the collection. The museum staff worked closely with conservator Harold Mailand to create a prioritized list of conservation needs for gowns in the exhibit.

“One challenge is to secure funding both to conserve the gowns and to update the exhibit area so that a substantial part of the collection can be kept on view while preserving the gowns for generations of future Arkansans,” said Bill Gatewood, director of the Old State House Museum, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

First lady Susan Hutchinson, along with the Old State House Museum Associates board of directors, a nonprofit group established to support the Museum, will host a lunch on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, October 6, to raise funds to preserve the gowns. A seated lunch on the lawn will be followed by a special presentation in the Great Hall. Five of Arkansas’s former first ladies (Ginger Beebe, Janet Huckabee, Betty Tucker, Gay White and Barbara Pryor) have committed to be present for the event and will attend a special reception for table sponsors before the luncheon.

Help save the dresses by participating in the Luncheon on Tuesday, October 6. 

For direct ticket inquiries, please contact Sammye Johnston at [email protected] or (501) 664-1879.

For corporate sponsorship please contact Cara Wade at [email protected] or (501) 202-1402 or Phillip Watts at [email protected] or (501) 376-5369.