PRESERVATION OF THE PAST
Formed in 1974, lifelong Arkansas County residents Bennie Burkett and Jack Crum created the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie. The museum has also been known as the Stuttgart Agricultural Museum and the Arkansas County Museum. The Museum was created to preserve Arkansas County’s heritage as a center for rice production and duck hunting. Funding for the museum is provided by quarterly donations from the city of Stuttgart and annual contributions from donors. The museum is governed by a board of trustees appointed by the Stuttgart city council.
The original 1,500 square foot building was built with funds raised by a nonprofit group of supportive citizens on city park property. Four additions have been made bringing the total museum space to 20,000 square feet as well as five furnished exterior exhibits. The museum completed an expansion in 2017 to accommodate the Arkansas Waterfowler Hall of Fame.
Several thousand visitors enter the museum each year and the various replica exhibits featuring home living, settlers’ entertainment and education, and early farm life. One of the most popular displays is the Waterfowl Wing, which features all species of waterfowl that frequent the Mississippi Flyway, mounted and displayed as if they were coming to the small pond to rest. The exhibit includes audio of each bird’s call, as well as a duck blind, a river bottom guide boat, a duck call shop, a presentation of a rice field with geese and ducks feeding, and a distinct display of Indian duck effigy pottery from AD 1100.
Additional exhibits include farm machinery from the days after the Reverend Adam Buerkle brought his family and friends to the area. He and his wife, Barbara von Roth, were married, completed college, and had their first of fifteen children in their native home of Stuttgart, Germany before immigrated to Lancaster, PA then Woodville, IA. They brought a group of settlers to the Arkansas Grand Prairie in 1878.
Other exhibit show recreation and retail in Stuttgart's early days, with its mercantile, toy store, grocery, millinery shop, jail, post office, and doctor’s office. An exact reproduction of an early Conestoga covered wagon was given to this museum after being used for the 1976 American Bicentennial trek across the United States. The museum holds more than 10,000 accessioned artifacts.