Current Exhibits

Arkansas Historic Preservation Program

Preserve Our Past


Since 1991, the annual Preserve Our Past Art and Essay Invitational celebrates National Historic Preservation Week. Hosted by Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the contest teaches students about local and state history, and fosters an interest in preserving historic places.

Copies of student essays and original artwork will be on display in the entrance to the CABE GALLERY May 13, 2022 through October 16, 2022.




The Wood Carver

Longhua Xu: The Soul of Arkansas

Born in Shanghai in 1954, Longhua Xu left China in 1989 during a period of political and economic unrest. In 1990, Longhua settled in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where his wife Shunying Chen and their young son soon joined him. Over the next three decades, he won prestigious art commissions and acted as an important member of the Arkansas art community. In 2019, Longhua was named an Arkansas Living Treasure. 

Despite the challenges associated with starting over in an unfamiliar country, Longhua Xu and his growing family attracted numerous friends and admirers. This series of paintings emerged from photographs of treasured family outings with Longhua’s late wife, their children, and grandchildren. His paintings of farmers markets, swap meets, and other social events are love letters to his adopted state. Longhua uses his role as a curious and compassionate observer to capture what many locals cannot see — the soul of Arkansas expressed through its people. 

Longhua Xu: The Soul of Arkansas will be on display in CABE GALLERY May 13, 2022 through October 16, 2022. Join us for the opening reception next 2nd Friday Art Night, on June 10, 2022, when Longhua Xu will be present.



Looming Cabinet

Dovetails/We Fit Together
A collaboration between UA Little Rock woodworking students and historical objects in HAM’s collection

From functional ladderback chairs to hand-carved headboards, 19th century Arkansans created wooden furniture to meet their needs and delight their senses. Over the past 200 years, skilled artisan trades like joinery and cabinetry have been in decline. Fortunately, many people still feel connected to wood as an artistic medium, and they aspire to build unique and durable objects. 

To support these makers, the museum teamed up with UA Little Rock’s Applied Design program for a semester-long collaboration. Professor Peter Scheidt’s beginning and advanced woodworking students toured Historic Arkansas Museum’s extensive collection to draw inspiration from historical objects. Items as diverse as a bootjack, a corner cupboard, a chest of drawers and a carved hair ornament sparked interest. 

By providing access to the museum’s collection, HAM brought Arkansas’s creative legacy full circle. For this exhibit, student woodworkers created unique interpretations of historical objects that unite the past and the present through their contemporary perspectives.

Dovetails/We Fit Together will be on exhibit in TRINITY GALLERY FOR ARKANSAS ARTISTS from from Feb. 11 through May 22, 2022.

Looming Cabinet (detail) by Andrew Myers. African mahogany,  white oak, white marble, hardware. 32 x 26 x 11 in.




Conspicuous Consumption: If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Arkansas Made Gallery

Popular culture often portrays 19th century Arkansas as a sleepy backwater populated by shiftless hillbillies and cagey moonshiners. And while the years prior to statehood did attract a handful of unconventional lawless types, western settlement also brought discerning ladies and gentlemen from important families, as well as skilled craftsmen and enterprising merchants eager to supply a growing middle class with the latest trends in housewares, textiles, accessories and more.

During the second half of the 1800s, shipping by river, road, and rail brought almost everything within reach, even to rural Arkansans. Improvements in industrial technology and mass-production meant items could be constructed cheaply and quickly and sold at reduced prices. These advances increased access to items that previously belonged only to exclusive members of early American aristocracy – descendants of European nobility, slave-owners and barons of industry.

By mid-century, converging commercial forces created an environment primed for conspicuous consumption. In the formal parlor, a hybrid public/private space where 19th century families entertained guests, Arkansans donned their most fashionable clothing, displayed their fanciest furniture, laid out their finest silver, and generally presented themselves to their best advantage. In the parlor and on the street, items like hand-painted miniature portraits, day dresses of patterned silk, and the flash of a gold pocket watch increased the social prestige of both middle- and working-class adults.

Hidden Histories: An Exhibit Within an Exhibit

A new, exciting addition is coming to Conspicuous Consumption. Hidden Histories is an exhibit within an exhibit; supplemental captions explore lesser-known facts about selected objects on display in Conspicuous Consumption. The result of careful research, this project shares information about items produced with an eye toward status or profit but at the expense of humans, animals, and natural resources. Expanded captions illuminate subjects left in the shadows and provide a voice for unique individuals whose lives have been forgotten. Just as a partially submerged iceberg reveals only a fraction of its true size, a historical object can conceal stories that lie just below its surface.




Arkansas Made: Photographs by Rett Peek
2nd Floor Gallery

Over several years, Rett Peek worked as the principal photographer for the second edition of Historic Arkansas Museum’s recently-published “Arkansas Made Vol. I & II.” Collectors granted Rett access to their homes and welcomed him into small-town historical societies, university collections, and many other unique spaces to capture images of Arkansas treasures. He traversed the state, venturing into almost every county to photograph local vernacular architecture. In the end, over one thousand of his images appear in the new books.

This exhibit celebrates Rett’s impressive achievement by sharing a small selection of his artful photographs, with a focus on items in Historic Arkansas Museum’s collection. We hope you will recognize a few old favorites, discover a handful of objects rarely seen on exhibit, and walk away inspired to explore the latest edition of Arkansas Made.



Permanent Exhibits



We Walk In Two Worlds: The Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw People of Arkansas
Native American Gallery

We Walk in Two Worlds tells the story of Arkansas’s first people, the Caddo, Osage and Quapaw Native American tribes from early times to today. The exhibit is told through objects and research. Approximately 158 objects, such as pottery, clothing and weapons, will be on exhibit. The exhibit has six thematic areas that are arranged chronologically. Along with objects and a historical timeline are passages of relevant research from archeologists, historians and ethnographers. 

Throughout the exhibit, is the dominant presence of the Native American voice, from each of Arkansas’s three prominent tribes. During the two years of exhibit development, many tribal members were interviewed and it is this voice that informs, educates and guides visitors through the exhibit. Former Historic Arkansas Museum chief curator and deputy director Swannee Bennett said, “What makes this exhibit unique is that it is a story of the Arkansas Native American told in large part with an Indian voice.”

This new permanent exhibit enables the museum to tell the bigger story of Arkansas’s frontier history. "We Walk in Two Worlds is a milestone as the State of Arkansas officially partners with the Caddo, Osage and Quapaw Nations and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to tell this story of struggle and endurance,” said former museum director Bill Worthen. To enhance this permanent exhibit, the museum is developing related programming for all the school children of Arkansas. For adults, the museum will bring in guest speakers and artists to cover many topics relating to the exhibit for many years to come. 



Sturgis Children’s Gallery

This hands-on gallery is designed especially for kids 4–10 years old. Based on the museum’s historic site, children can inter act with all the thinks they see but can’t touch on the grounds tour: use a skeleton key to unlock the front door of a period-inspired playhouse, pick plush vegetables from a mini garden, pump a bellow to stoke a cooking fire, dress up in 19th century clothing and play with puppets in the puppet theater.
Children's Gallery




The Knife Gallery
(Closed for Refurbishment)

Explore the history of Arkansas’s most famous weapon, the Bowie knife, as well as the history and art of bladesmithing. This gallery includes both historical and modern knives and is the home of the American Bladesmith Society Hall of Fame.

The exhibit includes more than 100 historical and modern knives and is the official exhibit for the American Bladesmith Society. The knives are from the museum's permanent collection and on loan from knife makers and collectors. Representing the work of master craftspeople who created exquisite weapons, the knives are made with precious metals, gemstones, Damascus steel, and intricate designs.




Online Exhibits

Explore our online exhibits.