Friday, August 30, 2019

Dr. Richter Retires as Archives Director, State Historian

Dr. Wendy Richter
After a long struggle with her health, Dr. Wendy Richter has retired as the state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives.

“This is my dream job,” Dr. Richter said earlier this year. But, after rounds of chemotherapy and radiation followed by a serious car wreck, Dr. Richter said she found it necessary to focus on her own health.

“I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to lead the effort in protecting and preserving Arkansas's past. The Archives staff and I take very seriously the responsibility to ensure that Arkansas history is not lost,” Dr. Richter wrote in an Aug. 22 column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Dr. Richter had served as director once before between 2005 and 2012. She returned to the head Archives position about 15 months ago and paved the way for acquiring new collections, equipment and funding for the division.

“Our Arkansas State Archives has blossomed under the leadership of Dr. Wendy Richter, and we are sad to see her leave,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Wendy’s spirit and love for the history and heritage of Arkansas has remained strong and apparent. We wish her all the best.”

Under Dr. Richter, the State Archives began a project to create a new website, the Arkansas Digital Archives, to expand the Archives’ online digital collections and create unified searches of various collections and databases. New equipment recently was installed in the research room and new collections, including the U.S. Western District of Arkansas Court Records were acquired throughout Dr. Richter’s tenure.

Staff also have increased outreach efforts, including lectures, webinars and conferences. Staff traveled to several counties this year to help them better preserve their records or transfer historical records to the State Archives. Some of those records date back to 1815.

The State Archives also celebrated the Arkansas Bicentennial and produced a traveling exhibit on the Arkansas Territory this year. The exhibit was so popular a second copy was created to meet demand. Both exhibits are reserved through 2020.

Dr. Richter has always believed in reaching out to and honoring volunteers. In July, she held a thank you reception for volunteers and has constantly expressed gratitude. Under Dr. Richter, volunteer participation increased and archival donations rose 71 percent in fiscal year 2019 over the same time a year ago.

“We are proud of the achievements the Arkansas State Archives saw under the direction of Dr. Richter,” said Julienne Crawford, interim director. “We will continue her good work by focusing on making documents more easily accessible to the public while maintaining and preserving Arkansas’s unique heritage and history.”