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Museum works to preserve Perry County’s past

by Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer | November 17, 2019 at 12:00 a.m.
Mike Allison, president of the Perry County Historical Museum, and Beverly Doremus, board secretary, view photographs of Perry County veterans that are displayed in scrapbooks at the museum in Perryville. The museum is normally open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every fourth Saturday of the month and will be open additional days in December, when the museum will host the exhibit Territorial Arkansas: The Wild Western Frontier, on loan from the Arkansas State Archives.

PERRYVILLE — The Perry County Historical Museum continues working toward its goal of being “a place where the past lives on.”

Mike Allison, a native of Perry County and president of the museum’s board of directors, said the museum “is dedicated to preserving the past to create a living memory for future generations.”

“We just want to keep this building open,” he said, adding that the museum is housed in what is known locally as the American Legion Hut, built in 1935 with the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 2005, the Arkansas Chapter of the American Legion deeded the American Legion building to the Perry County Historical Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The museum remains the central location for the chapter’s documents and collectibles, tracing military service back to World War I.

The museum, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has an extended collection of military memorabilia but is seeking more.

“We are still in need of copies of photographs and military information of the Perry County men and women who served their country,” said Kathy Rankin, a longtime volunteer at the museum and secretary of its board of directors. “We are putting this information in scrapbooks.”

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, and is open from 10 to 2 every fourth Saturday of the month. Rankin said members of the community are invited to bring their photos and other information, which can be scanned by a volunteer during that time.

Allison said the museum will host a special exhibit during December. The exhibit — Territorial Arkansas: The Wild Western Frontier — will be on loan from the Arkansas State Archives. Viewing hours will be 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 5-6; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7, which will coincide with Christmas activities in Perryville; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 11-13. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcome.

The museum will sponsor a spaghetti dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 15 to raise money for operational expenses. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children ages 6 and younger may eat free. The museum will sponsor another fundraiser, Soup Sunday, on Jan. 26.

Other collections at the museum include Perry County marriage records from 1882 to 2006, historical documents and memorabilia, photographs and prints, equipment, tools and household items, vintage clothing and furnishings, Indian artifacts and Civil War relics.

“The museum is totally run by volunteers,” Allison said. “We depend on grants, dues, donations and fundraisers to help keep it going.”

Allison said the museum received a $12,000 Historic Preservation Restoration Grant in 2018 from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, a division of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

“We were able to partially pay for external repairs that were urgently needed. We replaced some of the windowsills, the back door and some of the timbers,” he said.

“We also had to replace the roof this summer,” Allison said. “We were not able to receive any funding for that. … We had to cough that up. We also had to replace the heat and air system. … that hit us up pretty hard.

“We have to have these fundraisers in order to keep going.”

Rankin added, “If we don’t do anything else, we have to save this building. It is a treasure for our community.

“December is a busy month. Please take time to visit this special exhibit and share photographs and stories of Perry County.”

The Perry County Historical Museum is at 408 Main St. in Perryville, across from the Perry County Courthouse. The museum offers memberships for students, individuals, families and businesses; dues are $5 per student, $25 per individual, $35 per family and $100 per business. Checks may be mailed to the Perry County Historical Museum, P.O. Box 1128, Perryville, AR 72126.


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