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Historic Arkansas Museum takes visitors back in time

As visitors wander through the blacksmith's shop or venture into the old print shop, they experience a little piece of pioneer life at the Historic Arkansas Museum. (KATV photo)

Treasures from each of Arkansas’ 75 counties can be found at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

As visitors wander through the blacksmith's shop or venture into the old print shop, they experience a little piece of pioneer life.

Len Ray has worked at the Historic Arkansas Museum for the past 8 years.

"I was a general contractor so I've had a lot of experience hammering and using tools, so it's been really good for me to be able to transition over from driving nails to working on metal," Ray said.

Now Len Ray is a part of living history, every day giving visitors to the Historic Arkansas Museum a peak into the past.

"It's a lot of fun for me. I enjoy seeing the kids. I enjoy seeing their excitement and of course they like action. They like fire. They like sparks, so they get excited,” Ray said. “We get to mess around and play with them in the sense that we kid with them and ask them trick questions."

Showing this authentic skill requires authentic tools. How else could you touch history?

"We're using a 200-year-old anvil out of our collection. What other museums would allow an object in the collection to be put to use? But an anvil like this, it deserves to be used by the blacksmith," Ray said.

Just across the street is another exhibit, where visitors can get hands-on experience with a printing press.

James Rowe says working at the Historic Arkansas Museum is a dream.

"I love it here. They're never getting rid of me. I'll be 70 years old walking up and down these stairs," Rowe said.

The Historic Arkansas Museum began as a historic site in 1939 with the hope of preserving this antebellum architecture.

Since then it's grown, and so has its hope for every child who walks through the door.

"To know that the people who lived then, especially those people who lived out in the houses, they have a difficult time imagining they're real. They were just as real as these children today. They're flesh and blood and have a story to tell," chief curator Swannee Bennett said.

As does each piece of art.

All 75 counties are represented in this Arkansas-made exhibit from a Depression-era painting of Petit Jean Mountain to 20th century artists.

"We're preserving that cultural heritage. We're preserving that voice from the past and we're hoping we bring it to life," Bennett said.

The Historic Arkansas Museum is open 7 days a week. Admission to the museum center is free. To visit the historic grounds it's $2.50 for adults and $1 for children.

CLICK HERE to find out more information about tours and events.

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