Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Conversation with Rebecca Ballard

Becky Ballard, archival assistant. Photo courtesy of
the Arkansas State Archives.
Rebecca “Becky” Ballard is an archival assistant at the Arkansas State Archives. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Central Arkansas. Before joining the Archives’ staff, she worked 15 years as a quality control auditor for a local computer connector manufacture and held a part-time position with the Archives. Ballard took a moment from her busy day to talk with us about her role 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.

Q: What do you do on a typical day at Archives?
A: On a typical day at the Archives, I will process collections and assist patrons with research either in person or by doing research requests.

Q: How did you become interested in Arkansas history or working at the Arkansas State Archives?
A: As far back as I can remember, I have loved history; I believe this comes from my dad who is a big history buff. This love for history led me to explore jobs that dealt with history other than teaching. When I first heard about the Archives, I was amazed there was a place other than a museum where historical materials were assessable or available for the public to view. My junior year of college, I was fortunate to receive an internship at the Archives and just felt at home among all the historical materials housed here. I am in awe daily that I get to do something that I love, and in a sense, go back in time daily while working with the materials here at the Archives.

Q: What’s the most important or interesting thing you’ve discovered while working at Archives? Why?
A:  There are several interesting things I have discovered while working at the Archives. One particularly interesting discovery would have to be the vast quantity of artifacts the Archives hold. This was interesting to me in that individuals don’t always think of the Arkansas State Archives as having artifacts because artifacts are usually associated with museums. Well, in my mind they were.

Another important thing I have discovered while working at the Archives is that all the employees take great care in preserving the historical materials held here. This is important in my opinion because it illustrates to the people of Arkansas that the state’s history is important.

Q: Why do you think the Arkansas State Archives is important for Arkansans?
A: The staff at the Archives care about preserving the historical materials and know the history of Arkansas is important. Without the Archives and other agencies like us around the state, Arkansas’s history could very well be lost. Fifty years from now, I want my great-grand kids to have the ability to examine records-materials from now and know what life was like for us and those who came before us. Without the Archives this won’t be possible.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the face of a patron (no matter age) when they see a historical document that gives them insight into their past – whether it be a deed record, an obituary of a relative or a family diary.

Q: How do you see archiving evolving in the future?
A: The major evolution of archiving I see in the future is that everything will be digitalized. At the Arkansas State Archives, we are working diligently to increase our online collections.

Q: What do you wish people knew about Archives?
A: The Archives is so much more than a place that houses “old” papers. The Archives, in a way, is a window to the past – not just for history buffs or people who like to examine “old” papers, but for families’ pasts and, most importantly, the state’s history.