February 09, 2011 Edition

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NEARA sets grand opening

Vivian Heyl
Staff Writer

The Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives located at Powhatan Historic State Park will hold its grand opening on March 3. The public is invited to attend the opening, though those who want to do research may wish to wait until the following day.

Construction began on the facility in April of 2010 at a cost of over $813,706. The 3,980 square-foot facility is now fully staffed and operational.

Lisa Perry, who will soon have her doctorate in heritage studies, was hired as archive manager in January. Perry said she saw the job listing and knew it was right for her.

"Not only was it in my field but it was an interesting opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new archival facility. That just doesn't happen often," she said.

Perry also has a mechanical engineering degree and worked in that field for 15 years before deciding to pursue her love of history.

"I am a huge history buff," she said. "This is a job I am going to love."

NEARA now houses the records that were once stored in the Powhatan Courthouse. The records, which have been located at Arkansas State University since 2004, were returned in December. Many of the records date back to the early 1800s and predate statehood. They are considered to be some of the oldest in the state.

Though the staff has made great strides in getting the records organized, there is still a lot of work to be done. Some records may not be available until they are processed. Many will only be available on microfilm as they are too fragile to be handled.

"We want to invite the public to come see what we have and to get involved," she said.

Perry went on to say that the facility always needs volunteers. "There are also unpaid intern opportunities for those who want to learn about archiving," she said.

Included in the day's events will also be the dedication of a time capsule to be located in the foyer of the building. Steve Saunders who is in charge of the project said that the 2-foot-9-inch steel box will contain objects from the History Commission, the Lawrence County Historical Society and local dignitaries. The public is also invited to bring or mail postcards to the Powhatan Historic State Park at P.O. Box 93, Powhatan, AR 72458.

"We wanted something to help involve the public in the grand opening and a way to inform people about NEARA," he said. "The time capsule is a fun way to do that."

Some suggestions for those who wish to include a postcard are messages to future generations, relevant observations about today's events or early 21st Century history or a piece of interesting trivia. Postcards are needed by the end of February in order to process them for the time capsule.

Perry said those who want to do research at the archive need an NEARA identification card to access the records. Registration forms for those who want to obtain an ID are available at the facility.

"I want to thank everyone for their support," Perry said. "We are looking forward to a long and productive relationship with the community." Hours for NEARA will be Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 870-878-6521.

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