The Historic Arkansas Museum of territorial-era houses and attendant galleries (featuring both contemporary and historic artifacts) collects objects made in or important to Arkansas. Swannee Bennett, deputy director and chief curator for the museum, provided the following list, and, like his cohorts at the Arkansas Arts Center, just had to offer more rather than the 15 requested. Bennett added, "Gosh, this ain't fair. There are many, many more wonderful and unique pieces that we might cameo." (Bennett doesn't actually use "ain't" in speech, but it should be pointed out that it was perfectly acceptable English in the 19th century, which is the century Bennett inhabits, if not literally, then curatorially.)
In his words, the 16 most precious objects at HAM:
Any of the historic houses, of course.
Presentation flintlock rifle given to Arkansas's first state governor, James Conway, in 1836.
Coin silver spoons made in Little Rock by early silversmith Silas Toncray.
Portrait of Arkansas Post commandant [1787-1790] Bernard Joseph de Valliere de Hauterive, painted by famed New Orleans artist Jose De Salazar.
Portrait of John Drennen, founder of Van Buren and principal agent for Indian removal, painted by George Catlin in 1834-35 while in Van Buren.
Percussion rifle made by J.R. Robertson in Pulaski County in 1870.
One of the first "Bowie" knives, made by the original fabricator of the knives, James Black, in Washington (Hempstead County) before 1836.
Secession quilt made by Mrs. Green McPhearson of West Point (small town just east of Searcy) in 1861 as a patriotic gesture in support of Arkansas's secession from the Union.
Daguerreotype of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Ashley, probably Little Rock, photographer unknown, 1841-1842. Very rare.
Original handwritten deed to William Woodruff's first Arkansas Gazette print shop at Arkansas Post, 1819.
Piece of chewing tobacco "stolen" from President Andrew Jackson by someone on Arkansas U.S. Sen. William Savin Fulton's staff, a fun item in the collection.
Original pencil sketch of "Blissville," the ex-slave or freedmen's village in Little Rock in 1866, by famed Civil War artist A.R. Waud.
Landscape painting of Little Rock riverfront looking across at Big Rock, 1919, by renowned American landscape painter Nicholas R. Brewer (father of Arkansas artist Adrian Brewer, grandfather of Arkansas artist Edwin Brewer, great-grandfather of Arkansas-born illustrator Audrey Wood).
Handmade silver and fused glass/ceramic "Elsa" necklace by Arkansas artist Elsie Freund, circa 1955. One of the many pieces of Elsie Freund's work we have in the collection.
Genre painting "The Chess Game" by Arkansas Traveler painter Edward Payson Washbourne, painted before 1860. Depicts Washbourne and his brothers, Josiah Woodward and Henry E. A., sitting around a table playing chess in their parents' home near Dardanelle.
Large NILOAK earthenware vase, swirl pattern, earliest known dated piece of this well-known pottery, incised "C.D.Hyten 3/23/23." Hyten owned NILOAK pottery and was the creator of the swirl pattern.