A Variety of Museums Satisfy an Array of Visitors

– By Lynn Atkins

For some people vacations aren’t complete without a trip to a local museum. Other tourists save the museums for rainy days when there’s nothing else to do. In the Rogers area there’s a museum handy for almost every avocation.

In downtown Rogers, visitors can find the Rogers Historical Museum, the Daisy Air Gun Museum and the small fire equipment museum at Fire Station Number One. A few miles away is the opportunity to learn more about modern business, art and American Indians. Visitor Centers at two local parks provide insight into both natural and man made history and finally, politics can be explored in nearby Fayetteville. The Rogers Historical Museum was started by a group of volunteers in a former bank building in 1975, according to the web site www.rogersarkansas.com/museum/.  In 1982, the museum moved to its own building, the Hawkins House. Later, the Key Wing was added for exhibits, offices and collections storage. The Hawkins House is now completely furnished as a turn of the century, middle-class home and guided tours provide a glimpse of how Americans lived during the Victorian era.

The museum has earned a list of awards and their traveling exhibits have toured for years, offering insights on topics like “The Life Atomic: Growing Up in the Shadow of the A-Bomb” and “Here Comes the Bride: Weddings in America.”

Locally some exhibits change every few months with titles like “Rogers Auto-Biography: An Automotive History of Rogers” and “Buried Dreams: ‘Coin’ Harvey and Monte Ne.”  Permanent exhibits include “First Street,” a reproduction of a small-town Main Street of the turn of the 20th century, and “The Attic,” a hands on area for children of all ages.  There’s also space for traveling exhibits from all over, with titles like “The Civil War: A Nation Divided.”

The Rogers Historical Museum is located at 322 South Second Street in downtown Rogers and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.

A different kind of history is accessible at the Daisy Air Gun Museum where visitors are invited to find their own childhood BB gun, according to their web site: www.daisymuseum.com

Daisy Manufacturing came to Rogers in 1958 and soon the corporate offices became the home of an impressive collection of air guns and company paraphernalia. In 1999 Daisy decided to take their collection public and The Daisy Museum opened in downtown Rogers. Since then thousands of visitors a year from every state and Canada have toured the museum. They learn a little about the company that originally produced windmills and went on to turn their promotional air gun into a flourishing business. One highlight of the Daisy tour is the chance to reminisce about the movie that made “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle” a household word.

The museum is a non-profit corporation primarily staffed by Daisy retirees who are happy to provide a personal perspective for visitors. The gift shop has dozens of Daisy products available including collectible guns, nostalgic signs and posters and BB’s by the barrelful. The Daisy Air Gun Museum at 202 W. Walnut is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Although all seven Rogers fire stations are open to the public, Fire Station Number One in downtown Rogers is the home of the department’s museum where visitors can see the city’s first fire truck, “Old Hulda” and the hand drawn hose cart that preceded it. If the firefighters aren’t out on a call, someone will be available to answer questions.

While the entire art world waits impatiently for opening of Bentonville’s world class museum of American Art, Crystal Bridges, a preview is available in a historic building just off the Bentonville Square. The Massey Building, once a hotel but more recently the home of the Bentonville Public Library, is now hosting special events, traveling exhibits, lectures, movies and more for Crystal Bridges.

When Crystal Bridges is completed it will house a collection of paintings and sculptures by American artists from the Colonial period through the modern era. Meanwhile, a nature trail only a few steps from the square offers an observation deck that over looks the construction.

Around the corner from the Massey Building is the Five and Dime Store opened by Sam Walton in the 1950’s. In 1962, Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in Rogers and became an American Success Story, but he never forgot his roots and eventually, the Wal-Mart Visitors Center opened in that original Five and Dime Store. Visitors can see actual financial statements, profit and loss reports, and examples of early advertising, as well as the famous red pick up truck that Sam drove and his office, preserved for posterity. The Wal-Mart Visitors Center at 105 S. Main Street, Bentonville, AR is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am until 5 pm. Admission is free.

Also in Bentonville is the Museum of Native American History with about 5,000 square feet of artifacts mostly collected by businessman David Bogle. The exhibits also include some on loan from the University of Arkansas and cover 14,000 years of Native American history. It’s located on South West O Street (Arkansas 72) and is open from nine to five Monday through Saturday with no admission.

Both the Pea Ridge National Military Park and Hobbs State Park have Visitors’ Centers that offer a crash course in the history and environment of Northwest Arkansas. Both Visitors Centers are open eight to five every day.

At Pea Ridge, the site of a Civil War battle that is said to have saved Missouri for the Union, a newly reopened Visitors Center featuring a documentary and interactive displays, is a popular first stop. The Visitors Center tells the story of the battle, but also the story of the people who lived in the area at the time of the Civil War.

At Hobbs, a brand new building is dedicated to the story of entrepreneurs who found a wilderness and built a community. There’s also information about the natural world, including the trees, animals and insects as well as an accessible nature trail for a first hand look.

A few miles away, the site of the Van Winkle Mill and home has become a handicapped accessible trail with information posted about both the history and the archeologists who are still uncovering it.

Two of the most famous residents of Northwest Arkansas were drawn here by the University in nearby Fayetteville and went on to impact the entire world. The first home of Bill and Hillary Clinton is now open to the public.

Both were teaching at U of A Law School, when Bill bought the house Hillary had admired. In 1975 they were married in the home’s living room.

Bill Clinton had already entered political life when he bought the small Fayetteville home which is now filled with memorabilia from his campaigns for the U.S. House and Arkansas Attorney General, according to www.clintonhousemuseum.org/home.html. Admission is five dollars and the museum, at 930 California Blvd in Fayetteville, is open Monday – Saturday 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

For more information about visiting the Rogers area contact Allyson at the Rogers Convention and Visitors Bureau, 317 West Walnut Street, Rogers, Arkansas, 479 619-3183 or go to www.visitrogersarkansas.com.

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