Six of Arkansas’ First Ladies are teaming up to say “yes to the dress.”
On Tuesday at the Old State House museum, former Arkansas First Ladies Barbara Pryor, Gay White, Janet Huckabee, Betty Tucker, Ginger Beebe and current First Lady Susan Hutchinson announced that they would be hosting a fundraiser on Oct. 6 at noon at the Governor’s Mansion to benefit the restoration of the First Ladies’ Inaugural Gown Exhibit.
The Old State House is the home of the exhibit, which includes gowns worn at gubernatorial inaugural balls dating back to the 1840’s. It is the largest such collection in the U.S. outside of the Smithsonian and the most popular exhibit at the Old State House, according to officials.
The condition of the exhibit has deteriorated due to time and the toll taken on the textiles used in the gowns’ materials. Despite best efforts at preservation, more expensive and modern techniques are needed, museum officials said.
“One challenge is to secure funding both to conserve the gowns and to update the exhibit area so that a substantial part of the collection can be kept on view while preserving the gowns for generations of future Arkansans,” said Bill Gatewood, director of the Old State House Museum, a museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.
Each dress can cost anywhere from $12,000-$15,000 to preserve and heritage officials said that their fundraising hopes to preserve the 27 gowns currently in the exhibit. Also, a new HVAC system is needed specifically for the exhibit in order to control dust and humidity.
The new exhibit also promises to expand the display of the First Ladies’ work. Beyond showcasing their gowns, the exhibit is wanting to highlight the different causes each First Lady dedicated their time in office to helping, such as hunger relief and childhood immunization.
For more information on the Oct. 6th fundraiser call 501.664.1879. Tickets are limited and cost $150 in advance.