Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Arkansas History Commission Meets, Reviews Report

The Arkansas History Commission met this past January at the
Arkansas State Archives.
Arkansas State Archives staff helped more than 8,500 patrons discover resources during 2019, Arkansas History Commission members learned during a quarterly meeting Thursday, Jan. 16.

“Last year, our dedicated staff worked hard to make sure historical records were preserved and made available to the public,” said Dr. David Ware, state historian and director of the State Archives. “People come from out of state and all parts of Arkansas to delve into our collections and learn more about Arkansas history and their own Arkansas roots.”

Dr. Ware, who started as Archives director in January, and commissioners reviewed the State Archives’ 2019 report during the meeting at the State Archives. Read the full report online. 

Highlights from the report include: 8,595 patrons served; 37 hosted or co-hosted events; three traveling exhibitions hosted by 25 institutions; and 5,015 historical “Eckler” prints and negatives cleaned and rehoused for preservation.

Staff has been cleaning and preserving more than 100,000 photographs and negatives made by the Eckler Studio of Hot Springs from 1920s to 1950s. The negatives and prints are delicate and preserving them takes time. A 2018 video showcasing the collection is available online.

Over the past year, the Arkansas State Archives has continued to make strides to obtain and preserve important documents, including documents related to the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas and District Judge Isaac Charles Parker. Those records will eventually be available online as the trend toward using more online records continues.

Efforts toward digitizing are underway. New equipment and staff training helped facilitate adding more than 20,000 digital files. A new National Endowment for the Humanities grant will mean staff can prepare an additional 100,000 pages from historical Arkansas newspapers for the National Digital Newspaper Programs website, Chronicling America

The report shows the Arkansas State Archives remains a valuable resource to families, researchers and historians. For example, research requests grew by 25 percent in 2019 over the same time a year ago at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives alone.  

Meanwhile, commissioners decided during the meeting to continue to look at possible ways to encourage or create policies to better preserve important records statewide. Commissioners thanked members of the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives and the Black History Commission of Arkansas for attending.

“We had a productive and well-attended meeting,” Chairman Jason Hendren said. “Honored guests included Dr. David Ware, the new director of the State Archives and state historian, and Jimmy Bryant, the new director of Arkansas Heritage. We are thrilled to be working with them and appreciative of their support of the AHC and its mission.”