CAHC Launches New Opossum Initiative

The Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) announced today that it has established the state’s first league dedicated to opossum research in Arkansas.  The Arkansas ‘Possum Research and Inquiry League or APRIL, will collect and preserve materials related to the opossum and their contributions to the state of Arkansas.

Courtesy, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Already, APRIL has a collection more than 2,500 items related to historic accounts of opossums in Arkansas.  According to CAHC Associate Provost, Deborah Baldwin, there is a great need for sound data at the state and local levels on this marsupial.

The materials collected thus far, are comprised of papers, recipes, photographs, audio and visual materials, and memorabilia.  Included in these historic accounts are several documents on such important events in modern Arkansas history as:

  • ‘Possum Post, 1686, the first European settlement in Arkansas
  • The Civil War Battle of ‘Possum Ridge, 1862, also known as the Battle of ‘Possum Creek
  • The Brooks-Possum War, 1874, regarded as the end to Reconstruction in the state
  • An account of temperance advocate Carrie Nation’s destruction of 40 barrels of “Hot Springs ‘Possum Licker” outside a Little Rock saloon, 1906
  • Drafts of the 1935 School Lunch Program established by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in which roasted ‘possum was placed on the lunch menu for low-income children.  Including notes by WPA-employed home economists on teaching women the basics of how to cook a tasty ‘possum.

When asked to comment, CAHC Senior Archivist Linda R. Pine opined, “The creation of the Arkansas ‘Possum Research and Inquiry League is a red-letter event for all Arkansans.  It furthers our archives mission to collect and preserve the rich heritage of our state’s cultures and regions including men, women, and now opossums. Furthermore, the acquisition of databases such as OpossumQuest and will increase our knowledge of opossums and their contributions to the state and the nation, other than as road-kill or cooking.”

In conjunction with the grand opening of APRIL, the Center will host a conference scheduled for the spring of2014, titled, Opossums: America’s Misinterpreted Marsupial.   APRIL invites proposals for research projects that examine the economic, social, literary, and political contribution by opossums in Arkansas.

“If not for the Arkansas ‘Possum Research and Inquiry League, much of Arkansas’s opossum history would be lost to the ages,” Jama A. Best, Opossum Historian and Folklorist.  Ms. Best is scheduled to present on Opossums and the Presidency at next year’s conference. Read Ms. Best’s entire essay here.

The conference will, of course, occur at night.  Several session titles have already been confirmed for the meeting, such as:

Opossums in Popular Culture

Opossums: Friend or Food

Opossum or Possum: An Examination of the Etymology of America’s Only Marsupial

Cooking and Class: How Opossum Recipes Illustrate Class Divisions in Arkansas

Opossum, Oh Why: An Investigation into the 1927 Opossum Emigration from Arkansas

Opossums and the Presidency: A Tail of Intrigue and the White House

The ‘possum-bilities for sessions are endless.  Full proposals are strongly encouraged and should include the following information:  title and brief description of each paper and complete contact information for session participants, including opossums…

Just kidding! But the Center for Arkansas History and Culture does continue its commitment to ensuring the state’s history is accessible through collection and maintenance of archival materials, promoting an understanding of the past through scholarly exchange and public dialog, and supporting academic achievement through the education of undergraduate and graduate students.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

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