JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – There are thousands of places across northeastern Arkansas that help tell the stories that make up our history. Preserving those sites is the focus of the heritage studies program at Arkansas State University.
"We have a lot of very poor communities, but we have a very rich heritage and sometimes we don't even appreciate that heritage. I think it's real important to save that heritage," said Dr. Ruth Hawkins.
There are three projects those with the Arkansas Heritage Sites Program have focused on for the last ten to fifteen years.
"People are always shocked when they come to these sites and say I didn't know this was in Arkansas," said Hawkins.
Now Hawkins and her team are focusing on their newest acquisition, the administration building and the boyhood home of Johnny Cash.
"We're projecting that the Johnny Cash boyhood home, when it's restored, will bring in about $7,000,000 a year," said Hawkins.
Their first project started 14 years ago in Clay County.
"We have the Hemingway-Pfeiffer museum in Piggott where Ernest Hemingway wrote portions of 'A Farewell to Arms' in the barn," said Hawkins.
Since then they've been busy.
"It was based on the success of that project that we began having people come to us telling us about other properties and other sites that we ought to take a look at," said Hawkins.
Those different places have their own chapter in the history of Arkansas.
"The Southern Tenet Farmers Museum in Tyronza, which is the site of where the first union was formed of agricultural workers, was the first integrated union," said Hawkins.
They also have a site down in Lake Village, right on the Louisiana line that tells a story of the agricultural evolution of the area.
"Particularly the African American experience from in-slave labor before the Civil War, up through tenet farming and the mechanization of agriculture," said Hawkins.
She said we often take our heritage for granted and in some cases are unaware of what happened right under our noses.
"I think it's really interesting because all the sites that we have, that Arkansas State University has are all sites that have some national significance," said Hawkins.
The Johnny Cash Music Festival is being held to raise money to help with the restoration project in Dyess, AR.