Fast museum makeover scheduled for New Year

Saturday, December 8, 2012
Stephen Sinclair holds plans of what the first floor of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum will look like after three walls are installed in a T-shape in the entry area, shown on the plans, bottom right. The walls will create an entrance to the main floor exhibits under an arch behind the front desk, and direct the flow of visitors through the rooms. Photo by Jennifer Jackson

The first phase of a renovation of the Eureka Springs Historical Museum will get underway in the new year, with the goal of being completed in two weeks. The compelling factor: 'People and Places,' an exhibit which opens at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in January, featuring art and artifacts from Arkansas towns, including Eureka Springs. Stephen Sinclair, ESHM director, expects the exhibit to spark interest in local art and history in visitors.

"Some of them will see the display and come over," Sinclair said. "We hope to have the work completed and the museum looking nicer."

The renovation is being done by a local contractor, and is estimated to cost between $4,000 and $5,000, Sinclair said. It is being funded by money raised by 'Voices from Eureka's Silent City' living history cemetery tour.

"We brought in more than $10,000, and gave $900 to the Eureka Springs Cemetery," Sinclair said.

The museum should be closed about a week for the renovation, he said, which will include installing three, 7-foot high walls in a T-shape in the entry area. A replica of the "Balm of Life" archway over Basin Park will be installed behind the front desk, which will be moved forward, and will serve as the entry to main-floor exhibit rooms. Visitors will pass through the rooms in a clockwise direction, exiting though a door into the entry area. The walls also hide the exhibits from sight.

"Right now, when people come in, they can easily see everything we have," Sinclair said. "We needed to move up to a more professional look so that people who come in will want to pay to see the exhibits and learn about our history."

The museum drew 700,000 visitors last year, Sinclair said. He is now using a point-of-sale computer program to record visitor traffic and gift shop sales, and is creating QR codes for exhibits that visitors can scan with their cell phones, then listen to an audio on earphones plugged into the phone.

"We are also working on a new website," Sinclair said. "As soon as this (phase of the renovation) is finished, we are going to have a new website, new marketing, new look and new branding. Our whole look and feel is changing, to bring it into the 21st century."

The renovation, based on a design by Rick Armellini, consolidates and expands the museum gift shop. The wall of the stairway to the second floor exhibits will also be opened so that visitors know it's there, Sinclair said, instead of being hidden. The museum building was constructed in 1889 by Samuel Calif, who ran a general store on the main floor, housed his family on the second floor and put up boarders on the third. It was converted into the Elks club in 1948, and purchased for a museum by the Ozarks Festival in 1971.

The museum is supported mainly by memberships, admission fees, donations and fundraisers, Sinclair said. The next phase of the renovation is to find sponsorships for the new exhibits on aspects of Eureka Springs' history.

"I really think that when we get more organized and professional, we'll get more people coming in," Sinclair said.

The Eureka Springs Historical Museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Located at 95 S. Main St. For more information, go to www.eurekaspringshistorical

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