The Harlin Museum

The Harlin Museum chronicles the heritage of the Ozarks through art and history. The museum is located in West Plains, Missouri, and was originally the home of Mr. and Mrs. James P. Harlin, a former mayor of West Plains. The home was built in 1889 and contains period furnishings and artifacts preserved to reflect and recreate the historical period in which James P. Harlin and his family occupied the home. A modern addition and expansion of the original home allowed the museum to include an upstairs art gallery featuring local artists as well as a basement museum dedicated to historical artifacts collected from local residents. The Harlin Museum hosts numerous community art events as well as a living-history field trip experience for local elementary school students.

The Harlin Museum is dedicated to showcasing local artists and artwork inspired by the Ozark region of Missouri. The second floor art museum hosts touring art exhibitions and is the permanent home of local artist, Lennis L. Broadfoot’s collection. Broadfoot is best known for his charcoal drawings of early West Plains pioneers. His 1944 book, “Pioneers of the Ozarks”, featured his drawings along with descriptions and narratives recounted by his subjects. In 2005 Dane Broadfoot donated his father’s entire art collection to The Harlin Museum with plans to preserve the charcoal drawings and to republish Lennis Broadfoot’s book.

The West Plains exhibit in the Harlin Museum basement features historical items, artifacts, and memorabilia donated by local residents. Artifacts from the area’s earliest inhabitants are on display, including Native American items dating back to 5000 B.C. The museum preserves the pioneer heritage of the area through displays of farm implements, tools, and a wagon used by early settlers. Early 1900’s period pieces such as furniture, household items, clothing, and a vintage hat collection are on display, depicting turn-of-the century lifestyle in Missouri. Local residents also contributed numerous historical items from World Wars I and II. Memorabilia from local sports and entertainment celebrities such as baseball great Preacher Roe, country music star Porter Wagoner, and actor Dick Van Dyke are housed in the exhibit. The Harlin Museum is also partnering with the George D. Hay Society to preserve the legacy and Ozark heritage of George Hay, founder of the Grand Ole Opry.

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The Harlin Museum offers local elementary students the opportunity to discover the history of the Ozarks and to experience activities of early pioneer settlers. Students are able to study the art of Lennis Broadfoot to gain an understanding and appreciation of life as a pioneer in the Ozark region. Character actors portraying early pioneers demonstrate and instruct students on the use of the museums historical farm tools and period pieces. The hands-on experience allows students to recreate the lives and activities of Broadfoot’s subjects, underscoring the connection between art and life. Students also have the opportunity to participate in a charcoal drawing and character study class based on Broadfoot’s art.

© Peter Jennings 2008