Monday, January 6, 2020

A Conversation with Stephanie Carter

Stephanie Carter, archivist at the Arkansas State Archives
Stephanie Carter, an archivist at the Arkansas State Archives, processes, describes and documents our archival collections on a daily basis while also helping Arkansans research their histories. Carter records the chain of custody, donor information and storage locations of historical materials brought to the Arkansas State Archives. She is instrumental in making sure our collections are well-preserved, inventoried and accessible to the public. Before joining the staff in March 2018, Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2006 and a master’s degree in library and information science in 2014. Her other experience includes work for the Arkansas State Library and New Mexico State University. Carter took a moment from her busy work schedule to answer a few questions.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A: I wear many hats, so my duties for any given day vary. Some days, I work with donors to accept new donations to our Archives. I make a record that includes the donation information and get the historical material ready for processing.

Other days, I visit state agencies to discuss a transfer of records or pick up a collection of records that have been transferred. We also meet with county officials to provide recommendations about the preservation of county records. We continue to microfilm county records, which will create a record that can last over 500 years.

Also, I work in the research room and help our patrons find resources for research projects, such as researching their family histories or finding certain maps or newspaper articles. I spend the rest of my time processing archival collections, which includes organizing records and creating finding aids to help researchers navigate and access materials in our holdings. I also research records and write historical information about the collection.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: I have had an interest in Arkansas history for as long as I can remember. I visited museums at a young age and watched my grandmother collect and research our family history. Ever since I learned about the Arkansas State Archives, I have thought it would be an interesting place to work. After college, I worked at a library and eventually returned to school for a master’s degree in library and information science. While I was getting my second degree, my interest in archives grew because I learned more about what archivists do and spoke with people who work in the archiving field. It’s an amazing honor to be part of a team that celebrates and preserves Arkansas history the way the Arkansas State Archives does.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A: I come across so much unique material every day that it’s hard to pick one thing that is the most interesting or important. Arkansas has a long and culturally significant history that is unique and fascinating. Before working at the Arkansas State Archives, I didn’t know what an enormous collection of historical materials the State Archives holds. I also didn’t realize what a wide-array of topics the State Archives covers. We hold more records on Arkansas history than anywhere else in the world. Our collections are phenomenal and range from the Arkansas Territory to modern times. I am constantly learning something new.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A: I think the Arkansas State Archives is important because it records the state’s history, particularly by preserving unique, primary sources. These historical materials offer a view of Arkansas history that is more than can be read about in a book. Our materials tell the stories of the lives of individual Arkansans in their own words and as they experienced it. We have diaries, letters and photographs that provide a glimpse into what life was like for these individuals.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: There are many parts of my job that are rewarding, but I think the most rewarding part is being able to make our resources available to the people of Arkansas. Whether I’m in the research room helping patrons find information, or I’m preserving and processing collections, it’s important to me to be able to help provide access points to our collections. It’s very rewarding to know a collection is available for use and will be preserved for future generations because of the work I do.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A: One of the biggest factors affecting archives right now is digitization, and we eventually will have more collections available for viewing on our website. This is a very time-consuming task, and I think a large part of our work in the future will be making the difficult decisions of what to digitize first. Digitization has also begun to affect us in other ways. We are receiving more collections in “born-digital” format and in formats that are becoming obsolete, such as floppy disks and VHS tapes. Some of these materials, including VHS tapes, deteriorate quickly, too. We will have to continue to find ways to preserve the materials and transfer them to usable formats. I think the technological ways people access information will continue to evolve, so archivists must adapt to those changes.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A: Many people I’ve met don’t know where we are located or what we do. I wish they knew what a large collection of resources we hold and that we are here to help them. We can help with a variety of research needs, including finding genealogy resources, governors’ papers, state records, court records, photographs and more.

For more information about the Arkansas State Archives or research services, visit, email or call 501-682-6900.