March 09, 2011 Edition

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Grand opening held
at new archives facility



Powhatan Historic State Park's Steve Saunders (left) shows a folder to Evelyn Flippo of Powhatan and her daughter, Darlene Moore of Walnut Ridge, at the grand opening of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan. Saunders is pointing out that the handwriting on the folder belongs to Flippo, who was the caretaker of many of the historic records found at the archives when they were located in the Powhatan Courthouse.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt
Gretchen Hunt
Editor

A huge crowd was in attendance on Thursday to mark the grand opening of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan.

Located on the grounds of the Powhatan Historic State Park, the facility came to be through a collaboration between Arkansas State Parks and the Arkansas History Commission, with assistance from the Lawrence County Historical Society.

For members of the Lawrence County Historical Society, it represented a long-awaited homecoming for records that have been in the society's care for many years.

"We were just thrilled that after many years of frustration it's finally a reality and the records are available to the public again," Lloyd Clark, LCHS president said.

A lot of praise was given to LCHS members for their dedication to preserving the records. Richard Davies, executive director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, recalled Evelyn Flippo, former curator of what was then the Powhatan Courthouse Museum, taking him by the arm and saying, "I want to show you something."

"This is a great example of if you wait long enough, partnership and scheming will get things done," Davies said. "If it wasn't for the Lawrence County Historical Society, these records would not be there period. I can't thank the historical society enough because we wouldn't be here at all if they hadn't saved those records."

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' 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.

Dr. Ray Granade, vice chairman of the Arkansas History Commission, said both the NEARA and the archives facility in Southwest Arkansas came about because of partnerships with local citizens who saw the need to preserve their heritage.

"Congratulations for getting something like this to happen and thank you to the local historical society that's made it possible," he said.

Dr. Wendy Richter, director of the Arkansas History Commission, laughingly said that for a while now she has been saying "We are getting nearer to NEARA."

"It's been a long road to get here," she said. "While we are celebrating completion of the construction of the facility, our work is just beginning."

She expressed gratitude to the staff at Powhatan Historic State Park and Park Superintendent Corinne Fletcher.

"We look forward to a long, productive partnership," Richter said.

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.

Lisa Perry, who is serving as archival manager at NEARA, said in addition to records from more than a dozen counties, the facility also has library access to Ancestry.com.

She encourages people to visit the archives, but notes that it will take a while for all records to be available. The facility is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"We are looking forward to a lot of people coming to visit Powhatan and Lawrence County," Clark said.

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