A Town Without a Library
The Women’s Library Association took up the mantle of staring a library in Helena, Arkansas in Februrary of 1888. By March of that year, they were operating a reading room on the second floor of the Grand Opera House (pictured above) on Porter street.
The Oldest Civic Building in the County
In September of 1891, the WLA opened the first proper library in Helena on Pecan street. A stately 2 1/2 story French Mansard building, it served as both the city library and civic center for many years.
A New Fundraiser Every Week
Though the WLA now had a building to house their books, they only operated the library from a small side room. From opening day in 1891 to early 1914, there was a new fundraiding event in the main hall of the building. Everything from concerts to charity baazars to even turning the main hall into a skating rink for a few days.
A Place for Culture
The WLA had been receiving artwork and historical artifacts since thier first meeting in 1889 before the library was started, and they had been doing their best to display the items in the main hall. However, by 1916, the WLA realized that they needed a new space to display all of their artifacts. Thus, in 1931, they completed construction on a 1 1/2 story addition to the Library to house the Phillips County Museum. This was the first Museum in the state of Arkansas. In 2013, the name was changed to the Helena Museum of Phillips County.
In 2014, after the Phillips County Library had moved into more modern facilities on Columbia Street, a tornado swept through Helena and ripped the roof off the building. This allowed water to poor into the building and threatened to destroy the artifacts inside. Thanks to the efforts of the Helena fire and police departments and other citizens, lasting harm was prevented. However, it took a major grant and many months of work to open the Helena Museum to the public again.
A Place to Perserve The Past
Today, the Helena Museum of Phillips County works with other cultural institutions in the city (like the Delta Cultural Center and the Pillow-Thompson House) to ensure that the past of the Arkansas Delta is not forgotten, but saved for future generations. We will always strive to be a place to share our culture and history in the coming century, as we did in the last.