New Exhibits and Expansion Celebrated at Josephine School Museum

Clarke County residents and friends of the Josephine School Museum gathered Saturday afternoon to dedicate a new exhibit detailing the history of slavery in Clarke County and to launch the Judge Andree Layton Roaf Oral History Center. The standing room only event marks a new direction of expansion for the museum and the new exhibits lay the foundation for planned growth.

“This is not the typical expansion that one thinks of, it’s not an expansion in a physical sense it’s an expansion in an informational sense,” said board member Chuck Johnston.   The expansions being dedicated included   interpretive panels detailing the slavery experience in Clarke County and also the launch of the “Judge Andree Layton Roaf Oral History Center” Referring to the oral history center Mr Johnston noted, “Fortunately with today’s technology we are able to make oral tradition part of the experience.”

The new interpretive panels cover topical areas pertaining to slavery and were designed by Josephine School Museum Board Member, John Burns. Two are in display cases that also provide opportunities for artifact displays and currently contain replica items including a hay fork, a wooden bucket, and a broom. At the event Mr Burns spoke on the design intent for the space. “What we have decided over the last year or two is that we are going to break the building up in two halves as it is physically.   This side will deal with the African American Cultural Center and the African American experience in the county. This side (gesturing to the west room) will also deal with that experience but deal primarily with education, talking about the smaller schools in the county and the schools on this property to the present day.”

The panels feature scanned images of actual documents located in the county records that illustrate the business of slavery. They include articles from early newspapers advertising slaves for sale and records of the ownership of human beings.

Of particular interest to visitors was the exhibit that utilized a map and spread sheet to illustrate the numbers of slaves that were owned on properties in Clarke County in In 1860. The largest was Carter Hall that had 96 slaves, but many slaves in the county were owned by smaller properties. The county had 356 slaveholders at the time, Burns said.

The second component of the expansion was the “Judge Andree Layton Roaf Oral History Center.” Roaf was the first African-American woman to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court and also served on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
The former judge supported the museum with significant memorial donations and and the oral history center is named in honor Judge Andree Layton Roaf and her support of the museum.

The museum currently has 26 oral histories available through the center’s computer. In the question and answer segment of the ceremony museum president, Dorothy Davis said the goal is to have the oral histories on the museum website, as well to make them available to a much wider audience. The center plans to continue adding oral histories to the collection.

The museum is open for visitors every Sunday from 1 pm to 3pm and by appointment.