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History Helpers programs bring past back to life

By Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer

This article was published March 27, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.


Sharlene Richardson of Little Rock, left, and Deb Lewis of Conway are part of the History Helpers organization that presents programs across Arkansas. This bear skin is part of their program on the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition of 1804 that was conducted in part of Arkansas, which was once known as “The Bear State.”

CONWAY — A love of history is the driving force behind History Helpers.

Started in 2006 by Deb Lewis of Conway, Debra Browning of Benton and Sharlene Richardson of Little Rock, History Helpers provides historical education presentations and hands-on programming to schools, libraries, museums, state parks and other groups.

Lewis and Richardson most recently visited St. Joseph School in Conway, where they presented a program on the Hunter-Dunbar

Expedition of the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, which explored what is now northern Louisiana and Arkansas, traveling along the Ouachita River. They will present a similar program Monday during Home School Day at the Old Independence Regional Museum in Batesville.

“History Helpers was formed out of our passion to learn history and our desire to teach it in such a way as to inspire that passion in others,” Lewis said.

“The earliest program we do is from 1783 at Arkansas Post, where the last battle of the American Revolutionary War was fought,” she said. “And the latest time period we have done is the 1940s.”

They do charge a fee for their presentations, which are tailored to their audiences’ needs.

Lewis, Browning and Richardson worked at the Historic Arkansas Museum prior to starting History Helpers.

Lewis, who holds a degree in theater arts from the University of Central Arkansas, spent 13 years at the museum in the education department’s living history program. She also developed and headed the costume department, which included researching and making clothing in various historic styles.

Richardson, who majored in business administration at what was then State College of Arkansas (now the University of Central Arkansas), started doing living history in 1987 at the Arkansas Territorial Restoration (now known as Historic Arkansas Museum) and served in many capacities at the museum until 2003.

Browning, who majored in science and history for a degree in secondary education from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), was wardrobe coordinator for the museum’s education department for several years.

The three women are all members of the Arkansas Living History Association and the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.

They do diligent research on each of their topics when preparing their programs. They even make their own costumes.

“For research, I go to the Internet first,” Lewis said. “I also use

“We do a lot of reading as we prepare our programs,” she said, adding that they usually present a program once a month from September through June.

The women’s husbands also take part in the programs presented by History Helpers. Don Lewis is a woodcarver and also demonstrates fire building. Boyce Browning does horn work. Tim Richardson presents scientific programs.

For more information on History Helpers, contact Lewis at


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