Dedication and Grand Opening of Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives Facility Slated for March 3

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(POWHATAN, Ark.)--The dedication and grand opening ceremony for the new Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) facility on the grounds of Powhatan Historic State Park in Lawrence County at Powhatan will be held on Thursday, March 3 at 1 p.m., according to Arkansas State Parks Director Greg Butts. The public is invited. A reception and building tour will follow the ceremony.

A branch of the Arkansas History Commission (State Archives), NEARA’s mission is to collect, preserve, and make available, source materials pertaining to the history of northeast Arkansas and its people. The development and operation of NEARA occurred through a partnership between Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas History Commission. Arkansas State Parks provided funding for the facility’s design and construction, and will provide ongoing maintenance; the Arkansas History Commission will manage the facility’s day-to-day operations. The facility is located near the Powhatan Post Office on State Highway 25 and within the state park next to its circa 1889 Powhatan Male and Female Academy. Joining Greg Butts at the ceremony will be other state and local officials including Richard W. Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism; Dr. Ray Granade, vice chairman, Arkansas History Commission; Dr. Wendy Richter, director of the Arkansas History Commission; Lisa Perry, archival manager, Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives; and Corinne Fletcher, park superintendent at Powhatan Historic State Park. Designed to blend with the historic buildings in Powhatan, the new structure contains approximately 4,000 square feet overall, and includes a large, fire-proof vault, an archival processing room, and a public research room. The vault features Spacesaver high-density moveable shelving for records storage, environmental controls for temperature and humidity, and a state-of-the-art fire suppression system. The building also includes an office area, a vestibule, and restrooms. The public restrooms also serve visitors to nearby historic structures within the park. Its barrier-free design ensures access to visitors with disabilities. As a special component of the building, a time capsule is incorporated in the vestibule to preserve memorabilia for future generations.

In addition to the archival facility, exterior work included site preparation, visitor parking, barrier-free access, utilities, landscaping, and signage. NEARA offers a variety of research resources related to northeast Arkansas. Holdings include traditional archival material such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, newspapers, and broadsides. Books, periodicals, and other print resources create a general Arkansas history reference library. The core of NEARA’s initial holdings includes approximately 500 cubic feet of Lawrence County government records, donated by the Lawrence County Historical Society. These county records are among Arkansas’s earliest documentary resources. Records from numerous counties in the region are also available on microfilm. As the “Mother of Counties,” Lawrence County was established in 1815, prior to the creation of the Arkansas Territory (1819). The county encompassed most of north Arkansas, and was later subdivided into more than 30 modern counties in both Arkansas and Missouri.For additional information, visit the NEARA’s website at: www.northeastarchives.org.

Stonebridge Construction, LLC of Jonesboro served as the contractor for this $809,107 project. The architectural design firm was Architecture Plus, Inc. of Fort Smith. The construction was funded by Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) FY 2010 grant monies. The ANCRC was established by the Arkansas Legislature in 1987 to manage and supervise a grants and trust fund for the acquisition, management, and stewardship of state-owned properties acquired or used for ANCRC approved purposes. The grants, funded through a portion of the state's real estate transfer tax, are for projects that protect and maintain state-owned natural areas, historic sites, and outdoor recreation.

The Arkansas History Commission also oversees the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives (SARA) located at Historic Washington State Park in Hempstead County at Washington. SARA was founded in 1978 as a project of the Hempstead County Historical Society with assistance from the Arkansas History Commission, Historic Washington State Park and the Pioneer Washington Restoration Foundation. According to Dr. Wendy Richter, director of the Arkansas History Commission, “The Arkansas Legislature approved funding for two staff members at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in the Arkansas History Commission’s fiscal year 2011 budget.” She said the new facility will bring researchers into the area as does the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives which attracts approximately 1,000 researchers a year and serves many more by telephone, mail and e-mail.

Richter said that the staff at the Arkansas History Commission prepared materials for use by researchers at the new NEARA facility including selecting materials and cataloging them. The Arkansas History Commission continues the tradition of organizing and maintaining the state and local history of Arkansas by collecting manuscript materials, census records, military records, family histories, and various county, state and federal records. In 1971 when state government was reorganized by former Governor Dale Bumpers, the Commission became a part of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Additional information may be found on the Commission’s website, www.ark-ives.com. Powhatan Historic State Park is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. In the 1800s, the busy river port of Powhatan on the Black River was the chief shipping point for a largeterritory. In 1888, high on a hill overlooking the busy riverfront of this steamboat landing and ferry crossing, a Victorian courthouse was built from bricks made on site. Today, this historic courthouse is the state park’s dominant feature. The 15-acre park also includes structures built in the 1800s including the Powhatan Jail, Ficklin-Imboden Log House, Commercial Building, and Powhatan Male and Female Academy. The town of Powhatan once served as one of the county seats for Lawrence County. In 1963, voters decided to consolidate two county seats into one at Walnut Ridge and in 1966 county officials departed Powhatan.

For more information, contact: Wendy Richter, director, Arkansas History Commission, 1 Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201. Phone: 501-682-6900. E-mail: wendy.richter@arkansas.gov.