Steamboat symposium to feature archaeology experts

Two archaeologists are among the contributors participating in a day-long symposium dedicated to exploring the steamboat’s influence on Arkansas.

The presenters, Lindsay Scott, who has focused her research on nautical archaeology, and Skip Stewart-Abernathy, recently retired from the Arkansas Archaeological Survey, will present as part of the panel titled “Into the Water: The Sinking and Recovery of Sultana.”

Their panel is set for 10:20 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Arkansas Studies Institute building.

The event is part of a free online exhibit and symposium, “As much as the water: How steamboats shaped Arkansas,” hosted by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture (CAHC) in partnership with the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.

Other scheduled panelists on Nov. 5 include documentary film producer Mike Marshall, who will also contribute to the discussion of the explosion of Sultana, near Marion, Ark., in 1865.

The explosion killed 1,800 people, surpassing the death toll of the Titanic by 300, earning its spot among the worst maritime disasters in U.S. history. Most Americans weren’t aware of the disaster because the media’s attention was on the April 14 assassination of President Lincoln and the manhunt for his killer.

Until it was surpassed by the railroad as the primary means of transportation after the Civil War, steamboats were a vital American resource, according to Deborah Baldwin, associate provost of collections and archives.

About the archaeologists

Stewart-Abernathy received his undergraduate degree in history from Arkansas State University, and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Brown University. He was for many years Arkansas’s primary historical archeologist, and has received many awards throughout his distinguished career, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Historical Association in 2011 and the Arkansas Archeological Society’s McGimsey Preservation Award in 2014.

A native a Fort Smith, Ark., Scott earned her undergraduate degree in marketing and management at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She conducted postgraduate work in the Program for Maritime Studies at East Carolina University in North Carolina. She is a professional scuba diver with a passion for Civil War ships. Her studies in nautical archaeology have led her to a life of adventure, but she says she always comes home to Arkansas.

About the exhibit

The invention of Robert Fulton’s steamboat in 1807 is one of the defining moments in American history, which held ramifications for many states, Arkansas included.

The virtual exhibit features historic documents, photographs, and works of art depicting steamboats with the intent of examining the heritage of steamboats and their profound effect on the history and culture of Arkansas.

Embedded within the exhibit are web pages with lesson plans and other educational materials for teachers. The materials are designed to meet requirements of state social studies frameworks.

The Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the center a $13,876 grant to develop the exhibit and the related educational symposium.

For more details on the symposium and see the full list of scheduled speakers, visit or contact the center at 501.320.5780.

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