Feb 03, 2018
Mar 04, 2018
Clinton Presidential Center

The Great Expedition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase & its Impact on Arkansas

Clinton Presidential Center | Little Rock, Arkansas

The Clinton Presidential Center's new temporary exhibit features three original Louisiana Purchase Treaty documents from the National Archives and Records Administration. The Great Expedition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas tells the remarkable story of the most important land deal in American history – one that ultimately created the State of Arkansas. 

“We are delighted to display the original Louisiana Purchase Treaty documents at the Clinton Presidential Center as part of our exhibit, The Great Expedition,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation. “Together with our partners, we have curated a one-of-a-kind exhibit that will give guests of all ages an opportunity to see and learn more about this watershed transaction that doubled the size of the United States and changed the course of history."

The new exhibit is part of the Clinton Center's Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas program. Now in its second year, Fusion promotes heritage and culture and celebrates human achievement by weaving the arts and humanities together. Fusion 2018 explores the Louisiana Purchase and its impact on Arkansas. Fusion 2018 is made possible by the generous support of the Quapaw Tribe.

“The Louisiana Purchase Treaty symbolizes the bold and aspiring spirit of the American people,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “We are pleased to make the Louisiana Purchase Treaty documents available to the American people and hope all that can, will take this opportunity to view this landmark in American history.”

The Great Expedition highlights the domestic and international importance of the Louisiana Purchase, a geopolitical success for a nation not even three decades post-independence, that doubled the territory of the United States for a cost of less than 3-cents per acre. The territory included today’s Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, parts of Minnesota and Louisiana west of Mississippi River and big parts of North and northeastern New Mexico, South Dakota, northern Texas, some parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. It also tells the story of what became known as The Great Expedition, led by William Dunbar and George Hunter through present day Northern Louisiana and Southern Arkansas. Both scientists, Dunbar and Hunter documented a scientific collection of data in a joint journal with descriptions of flora and fauna, various soil types, and water levels of the Red, Black, and “Washita” (Ouachita) rivers and “the hot springs,” in present day Hot Springs, Arkansas. While lesser known than the more extensive Louis and Clark Expedition, the accounts of the Dunbar-Hunter expedition were the first from the newly purchased Louisiana territory to reach President Thomas Jefferson.

The Great Exhibition: Exploring the Louisiana Purchase and its Impact on Arkansas includes the following objects which are on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration, unless otherwise noted.

  • The American original of the treaty between the United States of America and the French Republic ceding the province of Louisiana to the United States, signed for the U.S. by Robert Livingston and James Monroe, and for the French by Finance Minister François de Barbé-Marbois
  • The exchange copy of the convention for payment of sums due to U.S. citizens signed by future French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The American original of the convention for payment of 60 million francs signed for the U.S. by Robert Livingston and James Monroe, and for the French by Finance Minister François de Barbé-Marbois
  • William Dunbar’s journal, eyeglasses, compass, and other objects from the Dunbar-Hunter expedition of Louisiana and Arkansas*
  • Napoleon Bonaparte death mask**
  • A portrait of Napoleon by John C. Grimes**
  • The "Aux Arc" keelboat, which is a forty-foot-long replica of the boat used during the Dunbar-Hunter expedition, will be displayed in the Clinton Center's fountain***

* On loan from Ouachita Baptist University

** On loan from the Tennessee Historical Society Collection at the Tennessee State Museum 

*** On loan from the Early Arkansaw Reenactors Association 

Additional objects on display in the exhibit are on loan from the Arkansas State Archives, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, and Historic Arkansas Museum.

The exhibit will be on display from February 3, 2018, through March 4, 2018.