Pine Bluff becoming an unlikely hotbed for museums

May 6, 2019

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — The sky’s the limit this spring at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. Actually, the entire universe is the limit in a family-focused exhibition at this hybrid Pine Bluff museum.

“Sun, Earth, Universe” is the title of the visiting show, in Pine Bluff through June 29. Created by the National Informal STEM Education Network working with the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, it invites youngsters and adults to try their hand at seven interactive stations.

One station lets users get a sense of how Earth is changing by comparing satellite photos taken over time to see how human-caused activities have an impact on the planet, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The sun is the focus of another display, where visitors can compare images that show the star at the heart of our solar system at periods of high activity (the solar maximum) and those of low activity (the solar minimum). The display explains how sun spots can affect electronic transmissions on Earth.

Youngsters can get a sense of the universe’s vastness at another desk by spinning a tumbler filled with 10,000 tiny beads. The beads represent all the stars visible from Earth, and the challenge is to pick out the one that represents our sun.

Other stations let visitors use colored blocks to create a map of elevations on the planet Venus, design and test their own spacecraft model, play a board game quizzing them about space missions, and unveil information invisible to the human eye via infrared camera and other devices.

Meanwhile, the museum’s art galleries are displaying two exhibits featuring work by women. One of them, “Women of the Arkansas Delta,” shows black-and-white photographs originally taken in 1976 and reflecting the region’s history. The other, “Arkansas Women to Watch Heavy Metal Exhibition 2018,” features intriguing sculptural work by Michele Fox, Amanda Heinbockel, Robyn Horn and Holly Laws.

Pine Bluff is unlikely to come to mind as a hotbed of museums. But the Arts & Science Center is only one among a half-dozen sites of possible interest, all with free admission. The others include:

— Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. A life-size animatronic likeness of Johnny Cash plays recordings of the late legend’s hits in the Pine Bluff Convention Center. On display are musical instruments used by Art Porter Jr., Jimmy Driftwood, Levon Helm and other luminaries.

— Arkansas Railroad Museum. The former yards of the defunct Cotton Belt line house nostalgia-stoking locomotives and other gear maintained mostly by volunteers who once worked for that railroad. The prime attraction is the 819 steam engine with its eight massive drive wheels.

— Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center. Indoors at this 130-acre preserve on Pine Bluff’s outskirts are exhibits detailing Delta wildlife and history as well as aquariums stocked with fish from the area’s lakes and rivers.

— Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Historical Museum. Housed in the former Union Station train depot, this museum takes visitors on a time trip to pioneer days. Antique clothing, quilts, furniture, dolls and cotton-farming equipment are on display.

— University Museum & Cultural Center. The state’s principal venue for black higher education during the Jim Crow era, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff maintains this facility tracing UAPB’s 137-year history and the roles its graduates have played in the state.

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, in Pine Bluff, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free, with donations welcome.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com