Cabot museum allows public to experience American history

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published July 25, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated July 24, 2013 at 2:26 p.m.
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Lisa Burnett

Firefighter Danny Holobaugh has been a member of the Bald Knob Volunteer Fire Department for 35 years. That service was recognized recently with Holobaugh’s induction into the Arkansas State Firefighters Association Hall of Fame.

History buffs in central Arkansas looking for a place to get their American-history fix don’t have to look far. What started out as a project for Mike Polston’s history class ultimately turned into what is now the Museum of American History in Cabot.

“We started out in the school with just a display case in the library,” Polston said.

Polston was a history teacher at Cabot High School from 1979 to 2005, when he became director of the Museum of American History, which is a part of the Cabot Public Schools.

When the museum came into existence, an exhibit that changed each semester was on display in a case in the library, he said.

“Then we moved into a small room in a building on the school grounds and ended up taking up the entire building,” Polston said.

The school then put the museum’s contents into storage for about five years while new facilities for the museum were built.

“[The Cabot schools] then got us a trailer, and we were there for about two months,” Polston said.

After that, the high school was built, and the museum moved into the old post office in downtown Cabot, Polston said.

“We’ve been here since 2008,” Polston said. “It’s great to have a permanent location, but we’ve just got too much stuff now.”

Although the museum

is open only two days a

week, Polston said that when school is in session, students help process the artifacts

that are brought to the museum.

Before the history museum was a case in the library, Polston said, he began collecting artifacts with Cabot High School’s History Club in 1982.

“It’s the kids who have done [the work],” Polston said.

One exhibit in the museum features baseball players from Arkansas who made it to the major leagues.

“[When we started that exhibit], the kids would write to players to get autographs,” Polston said.

Now, artifact processing is done by Polston’s service-learning students, who volunteer with the museum.

“They’ll come in for an hour or so in the morning. They’re very motivated students,” Polston said.

When Polston isn’t working at the Cabot museum, he’s busy with his full-time job at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, where he is a staff historian.

Museums allow visitors to come close with artifacts, then let them appreciate history more, Polston said.

“You can get more in touch with history if you see [an actual] document,” Polston said.

The Museum of American History in Cabot’s exhibits range from World War I to slavery to presidential-campaign memorabilia. The presidential-campaign collection is the museum’s largest, with between 3,000 and 4,000 pieces, Polston said.

Most exhibits in the museum stay the same, but Polston said some temporary exhibits, such as the slavery exhibit, will change occasionally. Polston said another interesting exhibit is the Cabot High School exhibit.

When visitors enter the Museum of American History

in Cabot, the first thing they see is a case filled with yearbooks, letterman jackets and graduation programs.

“The earliest graduation program we have is from 1908,” Polston said.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and by appointment. There is no charge to visit the museum, which is at 114 S. First St. in Cabot.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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