Williams Seeks to Link Past and Future

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Johnny Williams with students from North Little Rock Central High School, and other connections he made during the recent AMA meeting.

Johnny Williams, director of the Rector Community Museum, joined many other representatives at the Arkansas Museum Association's 48th annual meeting held March 18-20 at North Little Rock. The bulk of the meetings were held in the older section of North Little Rock, known as Argenta to local residents.

"They're doing so much in Argenta, which is what they call old North Little Rock," Williams said. "They're re-doing all the old buildings down there. It's just a fascinating area."

Williams attended several seminars during the three-day event; identifying topics which he felt would be helpful to the Rector Community Museum. He attended seminars covering topics such as identifying valuable technology, understanding grant applications, exhibition techniques, Arkansas Historic Preservation within the community, the connection between programming and retail and the importance of volunteers.

"It was a very informative trip," Williams said. "I learned a great deal in regards to several areas which I believe can make our museum here even better."

Williams was chosen as the director of the Museum this past August. He says much of what he learned previously was done "on the fly." Thus, he was excited to have the opportunity to attend the AMA meeting and network with others.

"My being new to the museum, I needed to go and learn how to display stuff, how to apply for grants and things like that," Williams said. "It was very beneficial to meet people from the state and other museums and learn how they do stuff."

Williams says one area of focus for the Rector Community Museum is space.

"Really, we need a building with about twice as much space as we currently have," Williams said. "Our museum is out of room. We have items that can't be displayed right because there's just not enough room."

While Williams hopes to examine potential grants, he's also hoping for local assistance.

"We need friends of the museum to help us buy another building," Williams said. "We need twice as much room as we currently have."

Williams noted the museum has little in terms of available funding before adding the grant application process could take considerable time.

Also during the meeting, Williams had the opportunity to meet with current students of Little Rock's Central High School. The program, which featured high school juniors and seniors, focused on service learning partnerships, encouraging students to work together.

Williams took the opportunity to meet with students and learn more about the project as a personal interest. Serving in the Arkansas Army National Guard in 1957, Williams was one of the Guardsmen present during the racially-charged integration of Little Rock Central High School. He served as Radio Telephone Operator aboard one of the Jeeps which escorted Minnijean Brown, one of the famed "Little Rock Nine," to the school.

"I enjoyed meeting with the students from Central High School and sharing my memories from that time," Williams said. "They were interested in my experiences, and we talked for quite a while.

"I was impressed with their work on their project, and enjoyed seeing how these students from different backgrounds were able to work together. It shows how far we've come, and how by working together people can achieve all sorts of things."

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