Catching up with Lydia Leatherwood of the Plantation Agriculture Museum

Old State House Museum - Monday, September 21, 2015

This Thursday our Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series continues with park interpreter Lydia Leatherwood of the Plantation Agriculture Museum in Scott, Arkansas. The museum highlights the history of Arkansas through the interesting viewpoint of the cotton industry from Arkansas statehood to the World War II era, when production became rapidly mechanized.

We sat down via e-mail and asked Lydia some questions about what she will be discussing!

OSH: How did you become interested in plantation agriculture?

LL: I became interested in plantation agriculture through my current job, the stories visitors shared, and the resources provided at the Plantation Agriculture Museum. I have grown up in Arkansas and around the state’s agriculture but the museum is what really helped spark my interest.

OSH: Why was and is plantation agriculture so important to Arkansas?

LL: Plantation agriculture was and is important to Arkansas because it has continually been the number one industry in Arkansas. Arkansas currently ranks #1 in the nation for rice, #2 in poultry, and #5 for cotton & sorghum, grain. From territorial times to today, agriculture has played a major part in Arkansas.

OSH: What are visitors to the museum surprised to learn?
When visitors come to the museum they are most surprised to learn how cotton goes from the field to our t-shirts. The Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park shows visitors the old fashioned ways of growing cotton, picking cotton, ginning cotton, carding cotton, and finally spinning cotton. Visitors are surprised that they get to actually see the cotton growing right outside the museum, they can gin the cotton themselves, and they can feel the softness of raw cotton for the first time.

OSH: What is your favorite item at the Plantation Agriculture Museum?

LL: My favorite item at the Plantation Agriculture Museum is hard to choose because the museum is full of amazing artifacts. If I had to choose, the most recent item that is my favorite is the Mortise & Tenon joint cut out from the old frame of a local cotton gin. The hundred year old cotton gin sat on the land of the Cottonwoods Plantation and was assigned to be torn down. The owner realized the historical significance of the building and saved the Mortise & Tenon joint and later donated it to the Plantation Agriculture Museum.

OSH: What can we learn about Arkansas history from the Plantation Agriculture Museum?

LL: At the Plantation Agriculture Museum visitors can learn about the history and heritage of cotton agriculture and plantation life in Arkansas. The museum focuses on a time period from Arkansas’ statehood in 1836 until the end of World War II when agricultural practices rapidly changed to mechanization.

For more, join us Thursday, September 24, at noon for this Brown Bag Lunch Lecture at the Old State House Museum. Bring your lunch; soft drinks and water are provided.