Arkansas Living History Association

The Arkansas Living History Association (ALHA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to advancing living history in Arkansas. Its inception was in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 2007, when those working and volunteering in the field of living history felt a need to form an organization that would advance living history interpretation as an educational tool throughout the state.

While living history does not have an agreed-upon definition, it can be described as bringing a visual and auditory context to the interpretation of historical events, activities, dress, or everyday life of the people or time represented in an effort to make history more relatable. By bringing in authentic tools, foodways, clothing, etc., living historians can visually complement academic, personal, or professional learning by giving students, museum visitors, or laypeople a human perspective in interpreting past events or settings for which learning through a printed medium would perhaps be too one dimensional.

ALHA is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership. The board consists of a president, a vice president, a secretary, a treasurer, a communications director, and four representatives from four geographical regions of Arkansas. The organization’s mission is to support living history in Arkansas through the advancement of the use of living history as a form of interpretation; the encouragement of interaction and cooperation between individuals and institutions engaged in living history; the promotion of professional standards among living historians and at living history sites; and the development of public support for and interest in living history in Arkansas.

Immediately after the organization formed in 2007, the founders of ALHA began developing the organization’s website, newsletter, and social media presence. With these, ALHA’s membership steadily increased from its initial seven members to over 195 by 2019. Museum curators, heritage interpreters, cultural interpreters, historians, reenactors, teachers, and garment makers all make up the community. Many volunteers provide programming for the general public at Arkansas museums.

Continued education is considered essential to the organization, so ALHA offers, through its network of living historians and educators, mentorship to individuals working or volunteering in the living history trade. ALHA also provides workshops on different topics to train members in various living history techniques. Those wanting further training within the organization of ALHA are offered three levels of certification—apprentice, journeyman, and master—geared toward the gradual mastering of the art of educating and entertaining a living history audience.

Costs of membership are kept low and scholarships are available for members to attend the annual conference held once a year in different parts of the state. Those on scholarship can also attend the regional and national meeting of the Association of Living History Farms and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM).

The formation of ALHA has encouraged other states to form similar state-level living history associations, such as the Texas Living History Association (THLA), which formed in 2012. ALHA has become a recognized example of a state-level outreach for the living history field in the United States.

For additional information:
Arkansas Living History Association. https://arkansaslivinghistory.com/ (accessed December 27, 2019).

Chris Adams
Historic Washington State Park

Last Updated: 12/27/2019