Arkansas Toothpick- The Civil War Hub of ArkansasThe following text is from Lisa K. Speer, Ph.D., M.L.I.S., the State Historian and Director of the Arkansas State Archives. She gives a perspective of the new changeover from the Parks department to the Department of Arkansas Heritage from the Arkansas History Listserv:

For a variety of reasons, I usually don’t reply on the list to posts about the Arkansas History Commission and State Archives. This time, I going to make an exception because I can speak from the perspective of someone inside the agency – someone who has worked here five to six days a week, every week for the last three years.

First, please let me say that my staff and I appreciate the support of the history community as we make the transition from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism to the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Our 45-year relationship with Arkansas Parks and Tourism has been a good one for our agency. The History Commission has been historically underfunded by the Arkansas General Assembly since we were established in 1905. Through the years, ADPT has provided support for the History Commission in more ways than probably most people realize. We are a small agency and all our of 26 full-time positions are devoted to archival work. We have no personnel positions devoted to human resources, accounting, payroll, budgeting, or technology support. ADPT has provided those services for us at no cost. Our regional archives are located in Arkansas State Park-owned facilities. Parks staff provides major maintenance for those facilities, and Parks staff pitches in any time our regional archives are short-handed or we have special events. No one can justifiably question the level of support that ADPT has provided to the History Commission through the years. I worked with Richard Davies for almost three years. In that time, he never micromanaged History Commission business, was a great mentor, and provided my agency with the support we needed to pursue our goals.

As for the state of the agency’s collections and our future under the Department of Heritage, the preservation of the Arkansas history materials housed at the State Archives is and will remain our primary consideration. My staff and I take our roles as stewards of Arkansas history very seriously, and we value the trust of our donors. Like all other state archives, we are committed to open access to materials in our possession. Records and collections in our care will continue to be governed by transfer and donor agreements. Protocols for accessing collections and using our research rooms at Little Rock, Powhatan and Washington are the same. In the last 3 years, my staff and I have worked diligently on a survey of collections in our care to ensure open access to all materials housed at the History Commission. I am very proud of my staff, in particular the collections working group that planned, organized and executed the survey. Every single member of our staff has been involved in the survey, which we believe has served active researchers well.

What might not have gotten attention on this listserv is Governor Hutchinson’s memorandum of February 17, 2016, to state agencies, offices and departments, mandating that these entities consult with the Arkansas History Commission and State Archives on the preservation of records potentially having long-term value. As a result of this directive, more state records having permanent value are already making their way into our archives. While everyone has noted that we’re transitioning, the fact that our holdings are growing (not shrinking) seems to have gone unnoticed.

My staff and I are excited to join our esteemed colleagues at Heritage and continue to contribute to the good work and fine scholarship coming out of its agencies. I’m particularly happy that our two commissions – the Arkansas History Commission and the Black History Commission of Arkansas – will continue to play an integral part in everything we plan and do. I could not be more fortunate to work with a better group of commissioners – they are forward-thinking, positive individuals, who are always supportive of our agency and staff at every turn. I appreciate them very much.

I would be glad to talk to any concerned citizen, donor, or member of the history community at any time. My contact information is included in this post, and I encourage you to email or call.

Lisa K. Speer, Ph.D., M.L.I.S.
State Historian and Director of the Arkansas State Archives