Museums take their missions in new directions

Museums take their missions in new directions


While the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art continues pushing the boundaries in its collections and the way it displays them; the Rogers Historical Museum continues to enjoy its shiny new home, the Hailey Building, which opened a year ago; and the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History continues to add to a photographic archive that numbers more than half a million images and keeps ever-changing exhibits of those photos on its walls, three other museums have elbowed their way into the headlines in the past year. Each is unique in Northwest Arkansas, and all are helping to shape a more complete picture of this booming community.


In July of 2020, the Museum of Native American History will celebrate its 12th birthday in its current space at 202 S.W. O St. in Bentonville. An all-day event, Primitive Earth Skills Day, will feature hands-on workshops and demonstrations of arrowhead knapping, atlatl making, basketry, pottery and “as they say, so much more,” says the museum’s director, Charlotte Buchanan-Yale.

“MONAH is the vision of creator David Bogle,” Buchanan-Yale explains. “His collecting inspiration came as a young boy when he found his first arrowhead. After his collection outgrew his home, he opened a small museum off the Bentonville square. In 2008, David moved the museum to its current location in the old Sterling House and the rest is history — actually 16,000 years of history of the first people of all the Americas.”

The museum’s collections continue to grow, but that’s not what excites Buchanan-Yale about the year just past. She calls 2019 “the turning point for MONAH, where the museum has established itself as a cultural center.”

“It is important for our mission to connect the story of the past through our art and artifact collection to the present by hosting amazing monthly special events featuring Native cultural leaders, actors, artists, authors, storytellers, historians, scientists and Earth guardians who inspire and create a better and fuller understanding of our collective history,” Buchanan-Yale says. “The biggest thing MONAH did this year was our Native American Cultural Celebration: Tradition through Pop Culture, where our guest speaker was Academy Award winner Wes Studi. Over 4,500 people attended.

“It is very important that we educate future generations about the first people of the Americas. History is exciting stuff like a treasure map — unearthing facts that raise our awareness about our humanity.”


Historic Cane Hill

There’s a museum in Cane Hill, a tiny hamlet in western Washington County, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

“There are 16 buildings in Cane Hill on the National Register of Historic Places,” says Bobby Braly, director of the nonprofit Historic Cane Hill organization. “And our trails, which have grown to include several miles, are open every day from dawn to dusk.”

Cane Hill College reopened to the public in May 2017, following a 2 ½-year project to restore and refurbish the two-story brick building that was one of the earliest institutions of higher education in the state. Braly says the biggest accomplishment for 2019 was the acquisition of the Cane Hill Presbyterian Church.

“Built in 1891 in the Gothic Revival style, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” he says. “It was a central part of the history of Cane Hill and its Presbyterian settlement roots. In 2020, our biggest plan is the restoration and preservation work on the church. We hope that the building becomes a central part of our project.

“Our work in Cane Hill is guided by a 10-year master plan,” Braly adds. “It helps us see the future and execute daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals for our nonprofit organization. In five years, the Historic Cane Hill project should be turning a corner from restoring historic structures in town to being completed with those projects and into maintenance mode. In 10 years, we hope our visitor interactions and onsite programming, as well as outreach, become a larger part of our focus.”


Vintage Bentonville

“I suspect that online museums may be increasingly popular in the future in a similar way that online shopping and online media have changed with advancements in technology,” says Randy McCrory, one of the founders of Vintage Bentonville, the community’s first online museum. “When we started the online museum site, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. We have found that the concept of being able to visit a museum on your own time frame seems to be very popular with people. The majority of people who visit the site do so outside of what would be regular museum hours. Since we are always open, it makes it easy to come visit us.”

The effort to chronicle Bentonville’s history started more than four years ago with two Facebook pages, Vintage Bentonville and Historic Benton County. “About two years ago, was launched, and the Facebook audience, who was known to be interested in local history, became an instant audience for our posts,” McCrory says.

“This year we have had over 12,000 visits to the museum site viewing over 30,000 pages of information,” he goes on. “Our organization has had many requests to do presentations for other area groups. We have had many opportunities to work with other local museums, businesses, organizations, and local media concerning local history. The response we have received is better than we could have imagined.”

In the next year, McCrory says, the museum has goals both virtual and physical.

“One goal in the year to come would be to see people think of as a resource if they have a question on local history,” he says. “And we have several additional topics we plan to launch in the new year [including] local Bentonville maps.

“By the end of next year we hope to have a dedicated space for housing the Vintage Bentonville/Historic Benton County collection. This will include the 10,000 images in the collection and over 200 books, newspapers, blueprints, etc.

“Of course we want to finish what we have started with the Bentonville online museum (not that we will ever be totally finished because history is being written with each new day), but we’re already looking beyond Bentonville,” McCrory concludes. “You may start to hear the name Historic Benton County a lot more. There are a lot of small communities in Benton County (Monte Ne, Hiwasse, Cave Springs, and so forth) that do not have museums. We are looking at the possibility of maybe starting online museums for those communities with the help of those communities.”


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