Perhaps one of Little Rock’s most well-known rising stars is Esse Purse Museum, the brainchild of Anita Davis, collector of extraordinary purses and inspiring stories. Esse is one of just three dedicated purse museums in the world, but more importantly it is the only museum in the United States that has chronicled 100 years of struggles and triumphs of 20th Century American Women as told through the purses they carried and the contents inside them. Journey through the museum decade by decade to learn about women’s issues and independence.
Renowned author and notable local, Ms. Bernie Babcock, opened the Museum of Natural History & Antiquities in 1927 on Main Street. It boasted many oddities, including the highly publicized “Head of a Chicago Criminal.” The attraction later moved to City Hall when Babcock gifted it to the city of Little Rock. Following a few more moves around town, it now stands anchored in the River Market District. While it has experienced several transformations through the years, today is serves as the Museum of Discovery, a top-rated science museum with more than 90 fun, educational and interactive science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) exhibits. It has been featured on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. It remains Little Rock’s oldest museum.
One of Little Rock’s best attractions brings Arkansas heritage to life every day through living history actors on the original grounds of the city’s first neighborhood. The Historic Arkansas Museum — or as the locals affectionately call it, “HAM” — is alive and well today because of the sole efforts of Louisa Loughborough. In the 1930s, she successfully lobbied the Arkansas legislature to save and restore the historic buildings of Block 32 including the city’s oldest standing building, the Hinderliter Grog Shop. HAM is the perfect place to step back in time while standing in the heart of a capital city’s bustling downtown.
The next time you visit one of these three incredible museums, take a moment and thank these women. We certainly have.