State Museums to Visit on Cold Winter Days

In the wake of Arkansas’ mild holiday weather, very low temperatures are likely lurking as January unfolds. In light of this chilling prospect, natural state museums provide cozy indoor pleasures when the winter winds are blowing.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville needs no new accolades, having achieved a world-class reputation in its first decade. Little Rock is full of notable museums, as well as the stylishly rebuilt Museum of Fine Arts of Arkansas, formerly the Arkansas Arts Center, to open later this year. The museums of this history, located beyond the Little Rock area, are all worth a visit.

Admission is usually free. Visiting days, times and rules may vary as pandemic restrictions persist. It’s a good idea to check the museum’s website or call ahead for the latest details.

Elvis Presley’s GI haircut is the focus of the Chaffee Barbershop Museum. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Chaffee Barber Shop Museum
Chaffee Crossing, chaffeecrossing.com, (479) 452-4554. It was big news on March 24, 1958, when Elvis Presley was inducted into the United States Army and had his hair cut in a ducktail. It happened at Fort Chaffee, where a chair in the former military barber shop holds a cardboard cutout of the 25-year-old rock star and photos of his haircut.

Delta Cultural CenterHelena-West Helena, deltaculturalcenter.com, (870) 338-4350. Music from the Arkansas Delta is spotlighted in one of two buildings, where headphones allow visitors to hear the likes of Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Jordan, Johnny Cash and Levon Helm. In the other building, a Civil War exhibit features the Battle of Helena, a key Union victory.

Photo A photograph in the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum shows Ernest and Pauline. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum
Piggot, hemingway.astate.edu, (870) 598-3487. Ernest Hemingway wrote part of “A Farewell to Arms” in the 1930s while living in northeast Arkansas with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. Memorabilia from the property’s barn, which Pauline turned into a writing studio, include her typewriter and hunting trophies the couple shot in Africa.

Lum & Abner MuseumPineridge, lum-abner.com, (870) 326-4442. In the radio era of the 1930s, Arkansans Chester Lauck and Norris Goff were among America’s premier air stars. The fictional Jot ‘Em Down store in the Montgomery County hamlet of Pine Ridge is full of memorabilia and taped recordings of their home comedy.

Marc-Martin MuseumBatesville, markmartinmuseum.com, (870) 793-4461. A cavalcade of Mark Martin cars melt into the sales and service areas of the racing legend’s car dealership. They include the 1989 Stroh’s Thunderbird, Kellogg’s #5 car, and the #6 Viagra Coca-Cola 600 car. A set of Martin albums provide personal insight into his career.

Arkansas Grand Prairie Museumstuttgart, grandprairiemuseum.org, (870) 673-7001. This 20,000 square foot attraction tells the story of Stuttgart’s settlement that began in 1878 by German pioneers. Vintage agricultural machinery and a model of the main street of Stuttgart around 1900 are presented. The Water Fowl Wing salutes the fame of Grande Prairie’s duck hunting.

Photo The Native American History Museum houses a treasure trove of colorful clothing. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Native American History Museum
Bentonville, monah.us, (479) 273-2456. Founded by a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, this comprehensive museum houses more than 10,000 artifacts, mostly from North American Indigenous cultures. Visitors are greeted outside by a teepee and inside by a life-size model of the extinct woolly mammoth.

Southern Farmers MuseumTyronza, stfm.astate.edu, (870) 487-2909. Run by Arkansas State University, this Delta museum tells the highly unlikely story of a racially integrated labor union in the Jim Crow South during the Great Depression. The Farmers’ Union was also well ahead of its time in admitting women. He had a few years of limited success.

Photo The Sultana Disaster Museum details a terrible historical maritime disaster in the United States. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
Sultana Disaster Museum
marion, sultanadisastermuseum.com, (870) 739-6041. What this museum calls “The Forgotten Tragedy” is depicted near its aquatic location. Disaster occurred on April 27, 1865, when the steamer Sultana burned and sank on the Mississippi River while ferrying Union troops from Confederate prisons of war. It took about 1,800 lives.

Photo McGehee is the site of the World War II Japanese-American Internment Museum. (Special for the Democrat-Gazette/Marcia Schnedler)
World War II Japanese American Internment Museum
McGhee, rohwer.astate.edu, (870) 222-3168. Located in a former railroad depot, this museum tells the WWII story of nearby Rohwer and Jerome. In these remote Delta sites, federal internment camps confined 17,000 Japanese Americans for several years. An encouraging note is the evident resilience of so many of the internees.

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