Behind the Big House - March 23-24, 2018

The Brownlee Kitchen at Historic Arkansas Museum, the location of the 2018 “Behind the Big House” program.

The Behind the Big House program moves beyond the “Big Houses,” or stately historic homes, to explore extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them. This workshop will include live historical interpretations and lectures to highlight the important contributions African Americans made to Arkansas’s history and provide a broad understanding of the importance of slave dwellings and their role in heritage tourism.

Preserve Arkansas is proud to present Behind the Big House in partnership with the Arkansas Humanities Council, Black History Commission of Arkansas, and Historic Arkansas Museum, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page,

Preliminary Program

Friday, March 23 | 5:30 -7:30 p.m.

Historic Arkansas Museum Grounds and Brownlee Kitchen & Slave Quarters

 Jerome Bias will prepare a sampling of foods based on enslaved diets using the hearth in the Brownlee Kitchen & Slave Quarters

  • Historic Arkansas Museum’s Living History staff will portray characters based on primary source research into the lives of enslaved people who lived and worked on the present Museum property
  • Joseph McGill will prepare to sleep in the Brownlee Kitchen & Slave Quarters. Up to 50 people will be permitted to sleep/camp on the Museum grounds to gain a better understanding of life behind the “big house.”

Saturday, March 24 | 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Behind the Big House Program, Ottenheimer Theater

9:30 a.m. Introduction

Rachel Patton, Preserve Arkansas

Carla Coleman, Black History Commission of Arkansas

Swannee Bennett, Historic Arkansas Museum

9:50 a.m. Reconciling Slavery: Tourism, Race, & Difficult Pasts in the U.S. South 

Dr. Jodi Skipper, University of Mississippi

10:50-11:00 a.m. BREAK

11:00 a.m. “Getting into Character”: Research and Writing for Living History

Aisha Credit and Felicia Richardson, Historic Arkansas Museum

12:00 p.m. “If these things could talk”: Objects crafted by enslaved Arkansans from Historic Arkansas Museum’s Arkansas Made collection

Hattie Felton, Victoria Chandler, and Caroline Millar, Historic Arkansas Museum


12:30 p.m. Lunch, HAM Restaurant

Pre-ordered boxed lunches will be delivered.

1:30 p.m. Hearth, Kettle, Spoon, and Larder: How the Tasks and Tools of an Enslaved Cook Give us a Window into who she was as a Persongram

Jerome Bias, Stagville State Historic Site, North Carolina

2:30 p.m. Urban Archeology and the Restoration of the Brownlee Kitchen and Enslaved Quarters

Dr. Jodi Barnes, Station Archeologist, University of Arkansas at Monticello

3:20-3:30 p.m. BREAK

3:30 p.m. The Slave Dwelling Project, Historic Preservation, and What Arkansas Can Learn from this Project

Joseph McGill, The Slave Dwelling Project