The Arkansas Commemorative Commission was created by Act 156 of 1947, which required restoration and management of historic sites and objects for the benefit of the public, and public educational services related to the historic holdings. The Commission restored the Old State House and opened it in 1951 as a museum of Arkansas history. Trapnall Hall was donated to the State in 1974. It is administered as the Governor's Reception Hall and is a rental facility. In 1975, the Arkansas Commemorative Commission became a division of DAH. Act 68 of 2001 changed the name of the Arkansas Commemorative Commission to the Old State House Commission.
The Old State House is accredited by the American Association of Museums and provides a full complement of educational programs and interpretive exhibits on Arkansas history. Special emphasis is given the period 1836-1911, the historic Old State House and Arkansas state government. Current exhibits include: Arkansas/Arkansaw: A State and its Reputation, Battle Colors of Arkansas featuring the museum’s collection of Civil War battle flags and Pillars of Power that presents the history of the Old State House. The museum has a large collection of artifacts that are representative of the State's history. These objects are periodically displayed through special exhibits and include items such as quilts by Black Arkansans, Arkansas political memorabilia and Civil War battle flags.
The museum offers a variety of programs to accommodate a diverse audience. Opportunities for school groups include on-site tours and programs, outreach programs, and resource materials like publications and loan boxes. The staff works extensively with the DAH Education Coordinator and the Department of Education to develop curriculum guides and resource materials for classroom teachers that correlate to museum exhibits and museum programs. Ongoing youth programs offered throughout the year for children include: toddler programs, Summer Fun enrichment programs that highlight local and state history, and seasonal events like the Victorian Valentine Fair and Holiday Open House. The museum offers numerous programs for adults that reflect both temporary and permanent exhibits, including scholarly seminars, gallery talks, and special events like concerts and book signings.
The Old State House Commission, a statewide board of nine members appointed by the Governor, sets policy for the Old State House, Trapnall Hall, and the preservation restriction program. It determines major goals and objectives for each of its programs, delegates certain functions to the staff through the director of the commission, and considers the addition of new programs and alterations to existing programs under its statutory jurisdiction. The commission considers long-range plans, activities, and budgets. Board members represent all four congressional districts, with three at-large members, and are appointed by the Governor for nine-year terms.
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