Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources is located on Smackover Highway between Camden and El Dorado near Smackover in south-central Arkansas. The museum is in the midst of the historic sixty square mile Smackover Oil Field and one mile south of the oil rich town of Smackover. It is open from 8am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 1pm to 5pm on Sundays, whilst on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve afternoon. Christmas Day and New Year's Day it remains closed.
The museum first opened to the public in 1986 and is dedicated to the pioneers of south Arkansas's oil and brine industries. It is funded by a special tax on the state's oil production and bromine extraction and features various state of the art indoor exhibits and educational programs. The Smackover field was ranked as the United States' number one in the 1920s, and for a few months in 1925 it was the focal point for one of the wildest mineral booms in North America.
The museum has a 25,000-square-foot main exhibition and research building, in which there is a 10,500-square-feet exhibit hall, Orientation Theater, exhibit work area, research center, and a museum gift shop. Amongst the exhibitions on display here at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, visitors can see how the state fared before the 1920s boom. A large proportion of the residence in Arkansas lived on farms and timber was a huge industry in the area up to the early part of the 20th century.
Other exhibits visitors can see include a recreation of a boom town street from the 1920s with a hotel, cafe, theatre, newspaper office, city jail and oil field supply store as well as the travelling circus that entertained the oil producing communities. Visitors will also be shown how oil originated by seeing what happened 200 million years ago. There are many other exhibits that show how drilling is done and the impact that oil had on the communities of Arkansas.
The Oil Field Park is located on five acres with the education center standing adjacent to it, and includes seven operating examples of the methods used to produce oil from the 1920s through to the present day. There is a paved trail for visitors to walk along where they can view full-sized examples of vintage derricks and equipment used from the 1920s onwards as well as a replica of a 1920s standard rig and a 112-foot wooden derrick. There is a lot of information also available about the uses of bromine and where it originated from.
Guided tours are offered by museum staff throughout the year and need to be arranged in advance. Many education programs are also available during the year and can be customized to suit the needs of the group depending on the age group. There is also a non lending research library located at the museum, with plenty of material relating to the boom era as well as literature about state history, oil, geology and business.