Area children inspired by ’20s ornaments, toys at museum

Jacob (left) and Bentley work on their Christmas ornaments at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources.
Jacob (left) and Bentley work on their Christmas ornaments at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources.

Saturday afternoon at the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources in Smackover, children from all over the area were gathered together to craft old-school Christmas ornaments and learn about toys from the early 20th century.

The children used felt, feathers, construction paper, glitter, glue and a myriad of other craft supplies to create ornaments and toys they could bring home. The program was part of the museum’s Tinker Time, which is held every second Saturday, according to museum interpreter Charles Licciardi. Since the museum focuses on the region during the oil boom, which occurred in the 1920s, the ornaments and toys that inspired Saturday’s events were from that era.

“We do a variety of different programs that combine science and art during Tinker Time,” Licciardi. “It’s hands-on, experimental, trial-and-error. Some weeks we lean more heavily on art or more heavily on science. Since it’s the holiday season, we’re talking about ornaments and Christmas in the 1920s. Kids come up with a design and then try to carry it out.”

In the 1920s, artificial trees and electric lights were starting to become more popular, and the modern concept of Santa Clause was becoming more widespread. Inexpensive cotton ornaments were a favorite, Licciardi said, although glass ornaments were later imported from Germany.

Leah Gorman brought her daughter, Cassidy and her friends Gracie, Karis and Aaliyah to the museum to enjoy quality time together. She noted that she homeschools her daughter, and some of Cassidy’s friends recently began attending the West Side Christian School, so Saturday was an opportunity for all of them to hang out again.

“They missed each other, and this was something fun to do,” Leah said. “A way for them to use their imaginations.”

Krista Newton and her children Ian and Tori visited from Camden to make Christmas ornaments for their tree and relatives’ Christmas trees. Krista said she brings the children to the museum “all the time” for events like those held Saturday. Other families included children from El Dorado and Magnolia.

This Friday and Saturday will be the final two days for the museum’s Lights Extravaganza,w hich will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. The cost is $10 per car, although the extravaganza is a walking tour. Hot cocoa will be provided. The museum is located at 4087 Smackover Highway.

The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Opened in 1985, the museum is situated on the 60 square-mile Smackover Oil Field and is dedicated to “the pioneers of south Arkansas’s oil and brine industries,” according to the museum website. It receives funding from a special tax on the state’s oil production and bromine extraction.

“The mission of the Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources is to collect, preserve, and exhibit and interpret Arkansas’s natural resources with particular interest in petroleum and brine used for bromine extraction,” according to the website.

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