Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A Conversation with Lauren Jarvis

Lauren Jarvis, information services coordinator
Lauren Jarvis, our information services coordinator, is often busy helping patrons, keeping the research room at its best, researching projects, holding lectures and organizing trips and tours. She recently helped give a tour through the Archives for a group of volunteers. Jarvis has a bachelor’s degree in History and Folklore from Arkansas State University. Before joining the State Archives, she worked as a graduate assistant at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Jarvis recently took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about what she does, what she loves and what’s new at the State Archives.

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I have been with the Arkansas State Archives for 11 years, and my current job title is Information Services Coordinator.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A: I’m usually bouncing around between projects, but a typical day usually involves assisting patrons in some way. Sometimes that means working out in our research room, helping a researcher locate material for a project or work their way through one of our manuscript collections. Other times that means responding to emails from researchers planning trips to our facility or trying to determine how to access something in our collection because they are unable to visit. Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time organizing equipment upgrades in our research room, so that has meant researching products, planning the necessary staff training and making sure we can offer the best experience to our researchers.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I think I’ve always been interested in history, and I loved the idea of finding a way to work with it every day – whether in archives or museums. When I completed my bachelor’s degree in history, it just seemed like the natural next step to enroll in the Public History program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I ended up working on a lot of newspaper research, which meant I spent quite a bit of time at the State Archives and got to know a lot of the staff members. By the time a position at the Archives came open, around the same time I was completing my course work, it just seemed like it was perfect timing.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A: One of the most interesting things I’ve found while working at the Archives is probably the Arkansaw Water Company Report of the 1927 Flood. The water company was based here in Little Rock and the report provides some nice insight into the growing flood conditions in the city and their attempts to manage it. There are also quite a few photographs from Little Rock and North Little Rock during the flood that I had never seen before.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A: Ultimately, the State Archives is important for Arkansas because we hold the state’s history. To understand where we’ve been and where we’re going requires direct access to the past. We hold that primary documentation, be it the state constitutions, diaries and letters from local citizens, or newspapers, and it is open to anyone who would like to go through the material. Being able to provide that access for people and that tangible connection to the past is one of the most important parts of my job and a key function of the state archives in general.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: A patron’s excitement when they find a document they’ve been struggling to find. Many of our researchers are genealogists and some have been researching their families for years. When they find the one piece that’s been eluding them in our facility or because of our staff, that’s a pretty rewarding feeling.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A:  The archives field has already seen many changes in recent years, specifically in the push for digitization and the growing demand for online access to material. That’s certainly going to continue and repositories are going to have to identify how to meet that demand within the boundaries of staffing and funding. Since a lot of the modern record will be electronic or born-digital, I think that the priority for many facilities moving forward will be navigating preservation and access to these electronic files, when the sy
stems that created them are increasingly obsolete.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A: I wish people know archival research is never as easy as just typing a name into a search box and getting all of the material you need, as lovely as that would be. Archival research requires patience and a refusal to be discouraged if you don’t immediately find what you’re looking for. However, I think the payoff in the end is wonderful. That patience usually results in a researcher locating an item they didn’t expect or finding context for events that they didn’t have before, and in the end, that makes for a much more colorful and nuanced research experience and final product. It’s usually a lot more fun, too.