The Arkansas History Commission

The Arkansas History Commission



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The Arkansas History Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1905, by Act 215 which was enacted on April 27, established the Arkansas History Commission, making it one of the oldest state agencies. Members may be appointed for additional terms.When originally formed as a state board, the office was to identify and collect historic resources that were related to the state and to publish historical journals. John Hugh Reynolds, a University of Arkansas history professor and later the president of Hendrix College in Conway (1913-1945), provided guidance to the board during its early years. He was responsible for initiating the collection and identification of historical resources related to Arkansas.Dallas T. Herndon, the first director, was employed in 1911; Herndon stated that year, "The Commission exists to gather the records of all of Arkansas's local and state activities to the public.", and he served for forty-two years. In 1951, when the Old State House was restored, the History Commission was moved into a part of the west wing of that building.The first permanent home of the agency was in 1912 in the then-new State Capitol Building. During his tenure, Herndon wrote and edited many books on Arkansas history, the best known of which is his 1922 Centennial History of Arkansas.Subsequent years brought changes to the Commission, many of which had a negative impact on its mission. Restoration of the original state capitol building (now the Old State House Museum) in 1951 provided the commission with a new, expansive home.In 1953 Ted R. Worley, a three-story annex was added to the west wing.John L. Under his direction, the History Commission became a part of the Department of Parks and Tourism in 1971, and moved into its present quarters in the One Capitol mall Building in 1979.Dr. Ferguson continued Worley's vision by expanding the collection of books, pamphlets, microfilm and manuscripts. In addition, Ferguson began expanding the archives' holdings of U.S. Census records and proceeded to increase the in-house microfilming program.Dr. Ferguson's arrival and his involvement in improving the commission's collections coincided with an unprecedented increase in interest in Arkansas history and genealogy. A total of 552 patrons used the department's research facilities in 1961. New facilities were authorized in 1974 by the Arkansas General Assembly, allowing Ferguson to work alongside the National Archives to customize the design to fit the archives' specific needs. In 1979 the offices were opened in the Multi-Agency Complex on the Capitol Mall.It formed the first state-run historic preservation program in 1969. Today that agency is known as the Department of Arkansas Heritage.The commission continued to grow and evolve under Dr. Ferguson's tutelage, including playing an integral part in the 1976 American Bicentennial celebration. Also, the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee was created in 1991 to collect black historical memorabilia for the archives, to encourage Arkansas black history research, and to assist the Arkansas Department of Education in the development of African-American materials for use in public schools. A traveling exhibit program was added in 1997 to provide free displays to museums, libraries, universities and other cultural and/or historical organizations.Dr. In 1979 the offices were opened in the Multi-Agency Complex on the Capitol Mall.Wendy Richter became the agency's fourth director in May 2005. Today, the agency continues the tradition of preserving Arkansas's documentary heritage by collecting and providing access to manuscript materials, maps, books, visuals, family histories, and various county, state, and federal records. The Commission serves thousands of patrons and hosts several million visits to this website each year.The Commission's current mission is to keep and care for the official archives of the state, collecting materials which impact the history of Arkansas from the earliest times, copy official records and other historical data, and encourage historical research.


Watch the video: Arkansas History Commission Meets in Hot Springs