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The NorthEast Arkansas Regional Archives (NEARA) is one of two regional branches of the Arkansas History Commission. Located in Powhatan Historic State Park in Lawrence County, NEARA serves a sixteen-county area, including Baxter, Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Fulton, Greene, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi, Poinsett, Randolph, Sharp, and Stone counties. The facility was established to collect, preserve, and make available resources related to this region of northeast Arkansas and its people. Nearly all the original records, and many of the microfilm and published records, originated from these counties, making NEARA a key resource for research about the area.
NEARA was created as a collaborative effort between Arkansas State Parks, the Arkansas History Commission, and the Lawrence County Historical Society. When Lawrence County consolidated the two county seats, located in Powhatan and Walnut Ridge, and closed operations at Powhatan, a large collection of records was abandoned. The Lawrence County Historical Society convinced county officials to donate those records to the society. The collection remained in the Powhatan courthouse, which was acquired by Arkansas State Parks in 1974. When the courthouse was renovated in 2004, the records were permanently removed. Construction of NEARA allowed the records to return to Powhatan.
The facility, built with grant funding from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, is owned by Arkansas State Parks and operated by the Arkansas History Commission. Construction on this 3,965-square-foot building, which includes a 1,484-square-foot fire-proof archival vault to offer maximum protection for the collections housed there, cost $813,704, including furniture, fixtures, and equipment. Completed in December 2010, NEARA opened on March 3, 2011.
The core of the collection includes approximately 500 cubic feet of records formerly housed at the Powhatan Historic Courthouse. The earliest of these records date to the early 1800s, prior to the creation of either the Arkansas Territory (1819) or Lawrence County, then in Missouri Territory (1815). The Lawrence County Historical Society donated these records to the Arkansas History Commission in December 2010.
In addition to the records donated by the Lawrence County Historical Society, the facility houses books, microfilm, photographs, maps, census records, county records, business records, family histories, and other records related to the region. Donations from organizations, governmental institutions, businesses, and individuals have continued to expand the collection, making NEARA a premier research facility for those interested in conducting historical or genealogical research about this area. The facility has a staff of two full-time Arkansas History Commission employees. An active group of volunteers from the community provides valuable assistance in preparing records for use. NEARA also offers an internship program. These semester-long internships provide college students training in archival operations and processing.
For additional information: “Archives Officially Open at Powhatan.” The Times Dispatch, March 9, 2011. Online at http://lchsar.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/C-1_2011-03-09_feature.pdf (accessed November 9, 2011).
“Grand Opening Held at New Archives Facility.” The Times Dispatch, March 9, 2011. Online at http://www.thetd.com/freepages/2011-03-09/news/story1.php (accessed November 9, 2011).
“Grand Opening of NEARA Nearing.” The Times Dispatch, February 23, 2011. Online at http://www.thetd.com/freepages/2011-02-23/news/story2.php (accessed November 9, 2011).
NorthEast Arkansas Regional Archives. http://www.northeastarchives.org (accessed September 28, 2011).
“NEARA Holdings Continue to Grow.” The Times Dispatch, July 27, 2011. Online at http://www.thetd.com/freepages/2011-07-27/news/story2.php (accessed November 9, 2011).
Lisa PerryNorthEast Arkansas Regional Archives
Last Updated 1/24/2012
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