Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Conversation with Elizabeth Freeman

Elizabeth Freeman, archival assistant
Elizabeth Freeman, an archival assistant, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Central Arkansas before joining the Arkansas State Archives in 2008. She has experience as a library technician, researcher and leader of outreach projects. Freeman also has been instrumental in helping inspect, preserve and transport historical county records that otherwise might have been lost. She is an experienced researcher and lecturer who has made presentations for associations, groups and individuals. Freeman recently took time from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her work at the Arkansas State Archives. 

Q: What’s your job title, and how long have you worked at the Arkansas State Archives?

A: I’m an archival assistant who is in charge of various reference and outreach projects and programs. I have worked at the Arkansas State Archives for more than 10 years.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?

A: My day typically starts with checking our social media pages. I post historical facts and photos daily to both Facebook and Twitter. I also update our website with the latest news and events. After that, I respond to research requests from patrons. Part of our work at the Arkansas State Archives includes answering questions about Arkansas history and helping people research their family histories. We offer limited research services that help connect people with historical records. As part of that service, I process all of our image and document reproduction orders. Also, several days a week, I work in our research room, where I help patrons find records.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?

A: It was an easy decision for me to major in history in college because I’ve always been fascinated by history. When I graduated from the University of Central Arkansas, I planned to work in public libraries, but when I was hired at the Arkansas State Archives, I found a career that combined my love of history with being able to work with the public. 

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?

A: The most interesting item I’ve discovered while working at the State Archives is definitely the Marion Reed Biddle diary! The diary covers Marion’s time in basic training for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) during World War II. She was an interesting lady, as was her experience in basic training. It was a great read!

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?

A: The Arkansas State Archives provides the public with access to historical records, which gives people the opportunity to discover their family stories. Our stories are personal histories that are important for understanding where we came from, who we are and how we are part of the collective heritage and identity of Arkansas. In fact, interest in genealogy is growing in Arkansas and across the nation. People from out of state are traveling here to discover or rediscover their Arkansas roots!

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I love the variety of projects and topics I get to work on, but my favorite thing about my job is helping a patron find the missing piece to their research. It’s very fulfilling to be able to help people and see the exhilaration on their faces. My job is very rewarding because of our patrons.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?

A: I believe the focus of the Arkansas State Archives will be more and more on digital records. People want to be able to access more collections online, and we are and have been working toward putting more of those records, including recent acquisitions, online in an easily searchable format. We are also working with other entities, such as the Library of Congress, to make sure more records are available to researchers, no matter where they are.