January 25, 2016 Edition

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Cuts hit NEARA facility

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Upon attending a meeting of the Friends of the Arkansas State Archives in Little Rock, Lawrence County Justice Lloyd Clark confirmed that the Department of Arkansas Heritage appears to have no intention of filling a vacant position left by Lisa Perry at the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives in Powhatan.

Clark said the cited cause for keeping the facility to a single employee is a job freeze. "This is just a ploy to reduce usage numbers so they can close it at a future date," Clark said.

Realistically, an archive facility should have at least two to three employees as those utilizing the facility are not supposed to be left alone with the documents.

Having heard discussions of relocating or even closing the Arkansas State Archives facility in Little Rock and others across the state, Clark said it is pertinent to get involved as soon as possible and do everything possible to keep these documents safe.

As facilities close, Clark said it is likely documents would be stored in warehouses, which would not only cut off public access but could also leave them to deteriorate in a non-climate-controlled environment.

"We need to get our legislators involved ASAP in helping us to keep the ASA in Little Rock at its present home and see that NEARA and SARA (located in Old Washington) are properly staffed and funded," Clark said.

County Judge John Thomison has said the county will do everything it can to keep its archives, some of which he added go back to before the Louisiana Purchase.

"We need to keep these positions funded and keep our archives," Thomison said.

State Rep. Fran Cavenaugh also spoke on the importance of the archives. "We must learn from our past to move forward and without facilities like NEARA, lots of our citizens lose that ability to know the past."

When the agreement was struck to house Lawrence County historic documents at NEARA, it had a clause that they were not to leave the county. Clark said he is prepared to go to court if the facility is closed and the documents are moved.

Additionally, NEARA serves 17 counties, meaning many people travel in to research at the facility, sometimes for days at a time.

"Researchers who visit NEARA also visit nearby libraries, cemeteries, towns and courthouses. They often spend money while here," Clark said.

Clark encourages everyone across the region to contact their county judges, chambers of commerce, libraries, colleges, high schools and any group, which need access to the documents at NEARA, SASA and the ASA itself.

He also said he is available to speak at public meetings and provide information about the archives and ways to help. He can be reached at 501-454-4371 or lloyd.clark@att.net.

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