Behind the Big House - March 29-30, 2019

Behind the Big House 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, held at Historic Arkansas Museum, will focus on foodways, researching the lives of enslaved Arkansans, and best practices for interpreting slavery at historic sites and museums.

Behind the Big House is free and open to the public. Registration is not necessary, but if you plan to spend the night on Friday, please RSVP at so we may get a headcount and provide you with additional instructions. Educators may receive three professional development credit/hours for participating in this event. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Schedule of Events:

Friday, March 29, 2019
Historic Arkansas Museum Grounds

5:30 PM Behind the Big House and Preservation Libations

Participants will enjoy libations provided by Preserve Arkansas and rotate through three stations on the museum’s grounds, sampling and learning about the cuisine of Arkansans enslaved during the antebellum period.

Station 1. Gathering and Gardening during Slavery
Pulaski County Master Gardeners and James Rowe

Station 2. Meet the Residents by Sampling Antebellum Scottish and Creole Food
Chef Joseph Brajcki and Felicia Richardson

Station 3. Archeology of Foodways Behind the Big House
Dr. Jodi A. Barnes, Leon Tidwell, and Arkansas Archeological Society volunteers

6:30 PM Otttenheimer Theater | Welcome
Stacy Hurst, Director, Department of Arkansas Heritage

6:40 PM The ‘Big House’ as Home: African Americans, Slavery, and Roots Tourism in the United States
Dr. Jodi Skipper, University of Mississippi

7:45 PM Fireside Chat: Slavery and Race in Arkansas
Joseph McGill, The Slave Dwelling Project, moderated by Dr. Kelly Houston Jones, Arkansas Tech University

8:45 PM Sleep Tight, Historic Site
Joseph McGill and interested participants sleep in the Brownlee Kitchen and tents on the Museum Grounds. You must email us at to register for the overnight stay.

Saturday, March 30, 2019
Historic Arkansas Museum & Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

8:30 AM Registration, Coffee, and Pastries
Historic Arkansas Museum

9:00 AM Welcome & Introductions
Swannee Bennett, Historic Arkansas Museum; Carla Coleman, Black History Commission of Arkansas; Rachel Patton, Preserve Arkansas

9:15 AM Saving Slave Houses: Ensuring a Place in the Historical Record for Historic Slave Houses and Their Inhabitants
Jobie Hill, Saving Slave Houses

10:15 AM The Giving Voice Program: Researching Slavery at Historic Arkansas Museum
Felicia Richardson and Maggie Speck-Kern

11:15 AM Walk to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art

11:30 AM Genealogy Workshop: Your Arkansas Connection and the Fruits of Your Tree
Rhonda Stewart, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

12:30 PM Dismissal

For more information, call 501-372-4757 or email