Arkansas Oil and Brine Museum

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The Arkansas Oil and Brine Museum is one mile south of the oil-rich town of Smackover, in the heart of the Arkansas oil fields. Surrounded by twenty acres of south Arkansas woodlands, the Museum collects, conserves, interprets, and exhibits examples of Arkansas' oil and brine industrial history and the fascinating social history that accompanied the oil boom of the 1920s.

An Exciting Story

Although these oil fields no longer play a leading role in our nation's destiny, at one time the dramatic events of the Arkansas oil boom focused the attention and the dreams of the nation on south Arkansas.

Prior to the discovery of oil in 1921, the area's economic future was linked to declining cotton and timber markets. Prospects were bleak. No one anticipated one of the wildest oil booms in the nation's history.

The Busey No. 1 well near El Dorado blew-in with a gusty fury on January 10, 1921. It was Arkansas' discovery well, and things would never be the same. Determined geologists explored creeks, noted elevations, and read the earth's outer crust. The serene pine forests were quickly consumed by the chaotic presence of the drill bit. The search for oil was soon directed north towards the village of Smackover and the nearby Ouachita River fault line. On July 29, 1922, the Richardson No. 1 brought in the newest discovery. Smackover, a village of less than 100 people, boomed to over 25,000 within months. Within a year the forty square-mile Smackover Field was producing oil in abundance. For five-months in 1925, the Smackover Field ranked first among the nation's oil fields.

Though the fury of the boom is over, the south Arkansas oil fields cover a ten county area and are still producing.

Bromine extraction followed the oil discovery. Columbia and Union Counties sit on one of the largest brine reserves in the world. Ethyl Corporation in Magnolia, and Great Lakes Chemical in El Dorado, play an international role in the commercialization of bromine and its applications.

Dedicated to the pioneers of south Arkansas' oil and brine industries, the Museum is funded by a tax on the state's oil production and bromine extraction.

The Museum

The Museum has a 25,000-square foot exhibit center, an education building, a collection management facility, and the Oil Field Park. Permanent indoor exhibits are in development. Temporary and traveling exhibits are available.

The Oil Field Park shows examples of oil production methods used from the 1920s boom to the modern era. Full-size, operational exhibits include:

  • a 1920s standard rig, a 112-foot wooden derrick and two wood-fired boilers illustrating steam-powered drilling
  • a 1920s-1930s 64-foot pipe derrick and gear-driven pumping unit
  • a 1930s 87-foot angle-iron derrick and a"Pennsylvania" type jack
  • a 1930s-1940s central power station containing an 18-foot eccentric wheel capable of simultaneously operating twelve wells
  • a 1930s"gin pole" mast and Oklahoma jack
  • a modern Lufkin unit on an original well head, counterbalanced by 2,125 feet of"down hole" rods

Museum Programs

Education and Interpretation - Films, lectures, field trips, demonstrations, pre-school visits, and adult programs and workshops are offered. Two films,"The Arkansas Boom" and "Oil Blowing Wild," are scheduled each day. Museum and Arkansas State Park interpretive events are scheduled throughout the year.

Teachers - A guide is available to assist educators in their preparation of graded, curriculum-related programs, offering an educational resource for 16 subjects including Arkansas history, geology and ecology.

Contact the Education Department for upcoming events, programs, speakers, and to schedule groups.

Research and Collections - Transcripts of audio and/or video oral histories of people who experienced the south Arkansas oil boom, a special collection of library, archival and photographic materials on the history of the region, and computerized data of Arkansas' petroleum and brine development are available to historians, researchers and members of the oil and brine industries.

A 10,800-square foot facility contains preservation areas, collection storage, laboratories, and curatorial offices. Strict professional methodology ensures that collections are preserved for future generations. Tours of this facility are available only by advance reservation.

Other Services

The museum store offers a variety of Arkansas-made items perfect for that special gift. VISA and Master Card are accepted.

A picnic area is available. Vending machines and seating are available inside. Food and drink are limited to the snack bar, courtyard and picnic areas. Smoking is permitted only in the snack bar and outdoor areas.

Visitors requiring handicapped access are invited to use the marked parking spaces near the entrance. The Oil Field Park and exhibit center are fully accessible.

Membership

We invite memberships from individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. Members receive many benefits including the newsletter and invitations to exhibit previews and other special events.

Many interesting and fulfilling volunteer opportunities are offered. We invite you to select an area that matches your interest, skills, and schedule. Volunteer brochures are available at the Visitor Services Desk.

Hours of Operation

Monday - Saturday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Admission is free.

Location

The Museum is on State Highway 7, one mile south of Smackover and 10 miles north of El Dorado, Arkansas.

For more information or to schedule your group, contact:

Arkansas Oil and Brine Museum
3853 Smackover Highway
Smackover, AR 71762
Telephone: (501) 725-2877

For information on Arkansas' other State Parks and Museums contact:

Arkansas State Parks
One Capitol Mall, 4A-900
Little Rock, AR 72201
Telephone: (501) 682-1191

All park services are provided on a nondiscriminatory basis. Arkansas State Parks is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Oct 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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