“Living Off the Land” Exhibit Opens

“Living Off the Land” Exhibit Opens

The opening of a new exhibit at Old Independence Regional Museum will take place on Sunday, January 25 at 2 p.m.  “Living Off the Land…Season by Season” is the exhibit theme for all of 2009.

“Spring: Time to Plant” is the first segment of the four-part exhibit. Every two months another “Season” exhibit will be added.  Curated by Twyla Wright and Nelson Barnett, the spring display includes a breaking plow and double shovel plow that were once used on a farm near Calamine. Panels of photographs and text show how mule-drawn plows were replaced by iron-wheel tractors. “We invite the public to come see a most unusual piece of farm machinery and guess what it is,” said Wright.

Visitors may play an electric question game to match various seeds with their labels. The game, using electric probes, promises to be fun for the entire family, from grandparents to grandchildren.

Spring, in days gone by, was also the season to gather wild plants for food, medicine, dye, and ink.  An illustrated notebook shows a number of plants, such as cattail, lamb’s quarter, sumac, poke sallet, and papaw fruit that, if properly prepared, provided delicious food. “Many folks remember their mothers shaving slices from sassafras tree roots and making a spring tonic for them to drink,” according to Wright. “We have some shavings for visitors to smell to see if it brings back memories.”

Along one wall is a line with six cloths hanging from it that have been dyed with juice from plants. “Walnuts, sumac, onion skin, goldenrod, and lichen all make beautiful dyes,” stated Amanda Nikkel.  She should know because she has spent hours preparing all the dyes.

Pokeberry juice can become a fine ink. Bill Hoskins picked berries and “cooked up” a fine batch of ink for the exhibit. Visitors may sit at an antique desk and use a quill pen dipped in the ink to write a letter and take it home as a souvenir. “It’s well known that Civil War soldiers made juice from the berries to write letters home,”

said Hoskins. Some say that Thomas Jefferson used a fermented pokeberry ink with which to write.

At the opening of this new exhibit, on January 25th, a program will be presented titled “Planting: the Way It Was Done Back Then.”  In looking at agriculture old and new the program will be broken into two parts – a short talk by George Lankford explaining the ancient tradition of planting by the signs, and a presentation by Jim Barnett, who will share his memories of growing up with farming and farm tools in Independence County in the 20th century.  As members of the audience enter, they will be invited to jot down memories of traditional beliefs regarding planting. The collection will be shared later with the whole group.

“Several other programs related to our spring exhibit will be presented through the month of April,” Wright said. “We have a full slate of programming already planned for each month of the year, including talks, demonstrations, workshops, and a field trip.”

Additional exhibits in the year will include “Summer: Time to Fish, Can Food, and Go Pearling,” and “Fall: Time to Harvest and Celebrate.” The last exhibit segment will be “Winter: Time to Hunt, Trap, and Weave.”  All the season exhibits will stay up for viewing as each new one is added.

According to Nikkel, the museum’s educator and volunteer coordinator, several family events are planned that will be filled with activities related to the exhibit themes.   “If anyone has questions about when these future exhibits and programs are scheduled,” said Nikkel “just give us a call at 870-793-2121.”

The Museum Gift Shop is now stocking books and other items that reflect the “Living Off The Land” exhibit.   Frances Mathis, gift shop manager, comments “We are excited about the wide diversity of books available on this theme. Shoppers can expect to see some enticing products in conjunction with the exhibit.”

Old Independence Regional Museum, located at 380 South Ninth Street in Batesville, is a private, non-profit institution.  It serves 12-counties in north central Arkansas.   The Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.  Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and $1.00 for children.  There is no admission for shopping in the Museum Gift Shop.  The museum is located at 380 South 9th street, between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.  Call 870-793-2121 for more information