Old Independence Regional Museum will hold its annual meeting of members and friends at 4 p.m. Nov. 5. The guest speaker will be Dr. Charles Bolton, professor of history, UALR. His topic will be "Runaway Slaves and the Arkansas Highlands." New trustees and officers will be introduced at the meeting. A reception will follow in the museum's newly completed expansion space. This event is free and open to the general public.
While the majority of enslaved people in Arkansas lived in the plantation regions of the state in the pre-Civil War period, many traveled through Batesville and other upland areas in their search for freedom. This is the topic that Charles Bolton will explore in his remarks at the annual meeting on Nov. 5.
Because the area is situated so close to the Missouri border, it was a potential escape route for local slaves and those from distant parts seeking freedom to the north on foot, horseback and sometimes hidden on steamboats.
Dr. Bolton is currently chair of the History Department at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. His work focuses on the pre-Civil War period and religious history. He has contributed a great deal to contemporary scholarship about Arkansas. Bolton is the author of Territorial Ambition: Land & Society in Arkansas, 1800-1840 (1993), Arkansas: 1800-1840, Remote & Restless (1998) and is co-editor with C.F. Williams, C.H. Moneyhan and L.T. Williams of A Documentary History of Arkansas (1984).
New trustees elected to three-year terms for 2006-2008 are Charles Barnett, Independence County treasurer, Charlie Morris, vice president of marketing, First National Banking Company of Ash Flat, and Audrey Pool, investment representative with T. J. Raney Inc.
Those re-elected include Robin Brock, senior vice president and trust officer at Citizens Bank, Debbie Frazier, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UACC-B, and community volunteer Lenora Mobley. Returning advisors are Dr. Davey Allen, Pat Jones, publisher of the Batesville Daily Guard, and Robert Reynolds, Independence County Health and Human Services.
An additional draw for this year's annual meeting is the just completed expansion project bringing over 5,000 square feet of new space into use for the museum. A reception in the new main gallery area will follow the program and business meeting. Museum staff and volunteers will show visitors the new exhibit, collections and work areas.
The expansion project quadruples the exhibit space, doubles the program seating and increases the archival vault space 10-fold. The expansion will add new collections storage space for donated objects also. This project brings the entire National Guard armory, built in 1936, into adaptive use as a museum building. Old Independence has been using approximately 50 percent of the historic building since opening in 1998. The museum will begin using the new spaces for programs and temporary exhibits in November and December of this year. More longstanding exhibits for the spaces will be installed in 2006.
Zack Mobley of Z.F. Mobley Architecture & Design, Batesville, is the architect for the project. M & A Jones is the contractor. Southwest Museum Services of Houston is providing design consultation for exhibits. The project is funded through HUD special project grants, an Arkansas Highways Transportation grant, an Independence County grant, and private donations.
Old Independence Regional Museum serves a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff. Parts of all these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820s Arkansas territory.
Continuing exhibits at the museum showcase Native American and early settlement life in the area and the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and $1 for children. The museum is located at 380 South Ninth, between Boswell and Vine in Batesville.
For further information, call 870-793-2121.