After a one-year delay due to COVID-19, the Old State House Museum opened its “Governors of Arkansas” exhibit, a new gallery that examines the state’s 45 governors.
The new exhibit is a complement to the “First Ladies of Arkansas” exhibit, which has been open for several years.
“I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with guests at the Old State House and so many cite the First Ladies of Arkansas Gallery as their favorite exhibit,” said Stacy Hurst, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “I have a feeling this new permanent exhibit focused on the lives of our governors is going to be the perfect pairing for the museum and will enhance the offerings at this iconic institution that is already a terrific driver for tourism in downtown Little Rock.”
In 1951, the Old State House became a museum and began collecting artifacts belonging to Arkansas governors a year later with the acquisition of a portrait of Gov. Jefferson Davis. Since then, the collection has grown to include more than 2,000 items ranging from Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s iconic “WR” campaign pins and Gov. Orval Faubus’s chicken-shaped cufflinks to Gov. Mike Huckabee’s duck call and the shoes worn by Gov. Mike Beebe on the campaign trail.
Of course, Gov. Bill Clinton used the Old State House as the backdrop for his dramatic Presidential Election Night victory speech in 1992.
“The pandemic delayed our opening, but we are very proud to finally share this exhibit with the people of Arkansas,” said Arkansas Heritage Director Jimmy Bryant. “The staff at the Old State House Museum have done a terrific job with the curation for the Governors of Arkansas Gallery. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”
The latest update of the governors’ gallery takes advantage of technology with interactive kiosks, including one that allows visitors to become a part of history by capturing photos of themselves that are integrated into newspaper images from some of the state’s most historic moments.
“Our team has been experimenting with the photo kiosk, and we are sure our visitors are going to love it,” said Old State House Museum Director, Bill Gatewood. “Our team has been transported back in time to the Great Depression, the moment that Bill Clinton was elected as president and more.”
The gallery features artifacts and images from different governors intermingled in sections that highlight different points along the governors’ journeys: origins, campaigns, inaugurations, terms in office and accomplishments after serving.
“When you walk in, visitors are struck with nostalgia because they see campaign slogans, buttons and commercials from days gone by representing politicians from different parties and parts of the state,” said Jo Ellen Maack, curator. “We cannot wait for visitors to see a sampling of the artifacts we’ve collected and, from time to time, we will change out items utilizing our vast collection to freshen up the gallery.”
The Old State House Museum is the original state capitol of Arkansas.