Marion’s first Sultana Disaster Exhibit was held for three weeks during March, 2012. Fast forward to 2015, after several more temporary exhibits, and Marion became home to the Sultana Disaster Museum – a permanent museum in a temporary location. We’ve enjoyed our time at 104 Washington Street and it continues to serve us well, but it’s time to move on to pursue our original goal – a permanent home and a state-of-the-art facility to more completely tell the story of the largest maritime disaster in U.S. history.
Since 2015, the existing 1,200 square foot museum has been visited by over 4,000 guests representing all 50 states and eight foreign nations. The majority of our visitors have been from outside of Crittenden County. There has been a need for a larger space for quite some time, but larger spaces don’t come cheap.
Fast forward again to 2019 – the City of Marion has arranged to acquire the historical WPA-era Marion School gymnasium to re-purpose it into a 14,500 square foot, state-of-the-art museum and archive. What an amazing opportunity we have to move forward with a facility that we can all be proud of.
Fundraising for Phase One of the project is already underway. We need to raise $76,000 for the cost of schematic design work, which includes design, concept, and exhibit planning. A “Go Fund Me” page has been established and will be active through mid-November, to help raise that money. Once this part of our project has been funded and finalized, we can move forward to more effectively secure funding from larger donors.
The need for this museum is evidenced by the fact that at least seven public schools across the nation have used the Sultana story for their National History Day Exhibits in 2019. In the past five years, four major documentaries have been produced and shown nationally on major television networks such as The Travel Channel, The History Channel, and Public Broadcasting channels and are available on Amazon. We have also become aware over the past few years that a group of Hollywood producers and actors are passionate about the history of the Sultana. One such documentary, ‘Remember the Sultana’, has been shown during our annual Sultana Disaster Conference events thanks to the generosity of Director Mike Marshall. The museum’s month-long exhibit in early 2019, inside the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, was viewed by over 6,000 people.
In 2019, the Arkansas Legislature passed legislation formally acknowledging the Sultana Disaster as the “greatest maritime disaster in United States’ history”, and set aside April 27, annually, as the permanent Day of Commemoration and Remembrance of the Sultana event in Crittenden County, AR.
It was estimated in a professionally prepared economic impact analysis of the museum’s construction that nearly 30,000 visitors would visit the museum annually and will spend almost $2.4 million in the City of Marion and $3.2 million within the county/state. Spending is expected to generate over $51,000 in tax revenue annually for the City of Marion.
Your donation would be an investment in your community, as well as in guaranteeing that our future generations know the history of the Sultana and the value our small town has in American history.
The Sultana Historical Preservation Society, Inc. (SHPS) is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization, formed in 2013. All contributions are 100% tax-deductible. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/sultana-disaster-museum-construction to donate.