State Capitol Exhibits
Recent ExhibitsFinding Your Adventure
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law a measure creating a new agency within the Department of the Interior, charged with managing an assortment of over thirty places already set aside by the federal government. That agency, the National Park Service, would grow both in size and in responsibilities carried. Today, as it approaches its 100th birthday, the National Park Service oversees more than four hundred sites encompassing more than 84 million acres spread across the United States, its trust territories and protectorates.
Finding Your Adventure, the Arkansas Capitol’s summer exhibit for 2016, is a birthday salute to the National Park System (NPS) and a “sampler” of its Arkansas sites. They are distinguished by their variety: in them, one may take a hike, sink into a thermal bath or float a river. One can stand where battles raged in the Civil War and in the Civil Rights Movement, explore an historic courthouse or a U.S. President’s childhood home and much more.
The exhibit features artifacts and images selected by staff members from each of the seven NPS sites within Arkansas. Architectural details and bath house memorabilia represent Hot Springs National Park, while Fort Smith National Historic Site’s offerings include a court document pertaining to notorious bank robber Henry Starr, signed by famed “hanging judge” Isaac Parker. Buffalo National River is represented by a half-canoe, crafted from a wrecked watercraft by park staff, while the William J. Clinton Birthplace and Home contributes a Little Golden Book once the property of a young Billy Blythe, the future president.
For 100 years the National Park Service has protected the nation’s natural and cultural treasures, preserved its stories and provided opportunities for recreation, learning, discovery and awe. These are your public lands and in this Centennial Anniversary year, the Capitol, along with the NPS, encourages visitors—natives and out-of-staters alike—to seek and find adventure in a national park in Arkansas.
Finding your Adventure will remain on display through Labor Day.
Ghost Signs of Arkansas
Beginning in the mid-Nineteenth century and continuing into the Twentieth, a new kind of graphic blossomed across America: outdoor advertising, in the form of signs painted on building walls or roofs or even natural features. Many of these advertised local concerns but also were “privilege” signs—ones promoting regional or even nationally-branded products such as Coca-Cola, patent medicines, tobacco products or cigars. Painted with care and stylistic flair by lettering artists who earned the appellation “wall dogs,” these signs boomed the products and enterprises of a growing, diversifying American economy.
Such signs once covered almost any flat building side. With the spread of billboards and other advertising media, the vogue for wall signs faded; many signs were obscured as new buildings went up, others were covered over with paint or plaster and many were simply left to fade away. The wall dogs did good work, though; across Arkansas and the nation, these graphics (many created using tenacious lead-based paint) survive as “ghost signs,” persistent reminders of our business past.
In the 1990s, the Arkansas Historic Preservation program, a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, began documenting Arkansas’s ghost signs. This project led to “Ghost Signs of Arkansas: Off-The-Wall Relics,” an exhibit which made its debut at the Old State House Museum in 1994. The exhibit featured photographs by Jeff Holder and text by Cynthia Haas, both of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. The images recorded fading wall signage from Trumann, Fordyce, Conway, Pine Bluff, Prescott and other towns across the state; many of the signs had outlasted the products they publicized. In 1997, the University of Arkansas Press issued Ghost Signs of Arkansas, in which Haas and Holder expanded on the exhibit. The exhibit itself graced the offices of the Arkansas Senate for many years, then went into storage.
This summer, however, Capitol visitors will be able to enjoy these “ghosts” once more; Ghost Signs of Arkansas is on view in the Capitol’s lower-level gallery through August. The images are more than two decades old and the survival rate of the signs depicted is unknown, so for this outing the exhibit is doubly “ghostly”: the signs recorded were shades of their original selves, and their images may virtually preserve the shades of things that have disappeared altogether.
Past revolving exhibits:
A Capitol in Progress
This exhibit, located in the Lower Level elevator lobby, features rare photographs taken at a crucial time in the construction of the Arkansas State Capitol. The work of Little Rock photographer Thomas B. Rayburn, the image document the condition of the structure in 1910 as a new governor and a new architect took charge of the struggling project to guide it to completion.
Building Forever: The Construction Story of the Arkansas State Capitol
Featuring historical photographs, blueprints, cartoons and newspaper articles, this exhibit chronicles the construction history of the Capitol, along with a look at 20th century governors and their impact on state and national events. The exhibit is located in the northwest hallway of the third floor.
Call of Duty: Arkansas at War
Explore Arkansas’s role in Major U.S. Conflicts and discover stories about our state’s heroes. View memorials to Desert Storm and Pearl Harbor veterans. The exhibit and memorials are in the fourth floor east corridor.
Legislative Photo Composites
Looking for a relative who served in the Arkansas legislature? Composite photographs of each legislative session since 1911 are located on the third and fourth floor hallways. House of Representative composite photographs are on the north ends of the third and fourth floors; Senate photos are on the south ends of both upper floors. Photos are in chronological order with the newer photos located on the third floor and the older photographs on the fourth floor.
Mentors & Models
This exhibit highlights the lives of social justice and civil rights advocates Daisy and L.C. Bates, and the making of Testament, a monument on the Capitol grounds honoring the Little Rock Nine. It is located in the north foyer on the first floor of the State Capitol, overlooking the monument.
Standing for Arkansas
Learn the history behind the official symbols of Arkansas. Located inthe west corridor of the fourth floor, this exhibit is fun for allages.
Through the Years By the Numbers
See how the state's people and industries have changed from territorial days to today. A timeline of major events in Arkansas history is coupled with population s changes since the 1820s. The timeline and narrative depict landmark events since Europeans first explored the region in the 1500s, how Native American cultures shifted and the progression of agriculture and industry through today. Located in the southeast corner of the Capitol’s fourth floor.