Written by: Karin Huffman

The Old Independence Regional Museum is a must see if visiting Independence County, and it’s a great way to kick off the new year and learn about the county’s rich history.

What started out as a National Guard Armory in the late 1930s, is now home to one of the best collections of relics, archives and historical artifacts in the area.

Located on Vine and 9th Street, this hidden gem sticks out in the residential neighborhood with it’s Gothic style sandstone structure.

The majority of the sandstone was harvested locally from the Maxfield Quarry, that was located near 23rd and Byers Street in Batesville.

With a vision and a passion, members of the Independence County Historical Society, decided to turn this building that was once used as a gym, storage unit and community center into something that the area could be proud of.

Twila Gill Wright was the president of the historical society in 1991 and found a way to get the ball rolling and after much fundraising, blood, sweat and tears, the group raised the $400,000 needed to get the building into their hands and took off.

The museum officially opened September 1998, and showcases not only Independence County, but the twelve counties that were part of Independence County in 1820: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff.

Following their mission statement that states that the acquisition and preservation of artifacts and archival materials significant to the history of Independence County, Arkansas, and the surrounding counties, making these materials available for research and providing history-based education for the public through exhibits and programs. 

We want visitors that come to Batesville to make the museum one of their stops,” OIRM Marketing Volunteer Amy Crouch-Howard stated. “The museum captures the heart of the area.”

Howard also hopes to bring in Independence County natives to the museum as well.

When you’re in downtown Batesville shopping or enjoying a great meal,” she pointed out. “Folks can easily add a stop by the museum to their plans!”

Upon entering the museum, it’s hard not to notice the grand sandstone infrastructure overlooking the street, but once inside, a feeling of warm nostalgia is undeniable.

With a collection of 19,000 items, the museum features photographs from the nineteenth and twentieth century, tools, textiles and equipment that was used during daily life in those times.

The museum is made up of volunteers who go above and beyond when it comes to cataloging, transcribing and archiving public records.

This museum really is a labor of love,” Howard stated. “It’s such a wonderful place for all ages, and there is plenty of room for social distancing.”

As vacations are being planned, family will tend to navigate their way back home and Howard and the team at the museum hope that they will stop in to see what the museum has to offer.

There is plenty of free parking,” Howard said. “It’s a great way to spend the afternoon while you are in town.”

The museum showcases one of Independence County’s treasures in the White River with a profound history from beginning to end with a majestic diorama.

The piece features the Lockkeeper’s house, the Corps of Engineers work barn and you can see how the Poke Bayou feeds into the White River.

Before leaving the museum, one last thing to enjoy is the gift shop featuring local art, books and knick knacks.

For an afternoon of rich history, the museum is the place to be.

The Old Independence Regional Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $5 for adults, $3 for Military and over 55, $2 for children 6 and up and children 6 and under are free.

For more information head to www.oirm.org.