"NEARA" is being loaded with history

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POWHATAN, AR (KAIT) - New details on a story we've been tracking out of Lawrence county for the past year. History is on the move!

In amongst the hundred year old buildings in Powhatan sits "NEARA."

The building may look "Old School," but it's purpose is time travel.

The moveable shelves inside NEARA will soon be filled with all kinds of important historical documents and books. Like this history of the Confederacy printed back in the early 1900's.

NEARA which means Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives sits up behind the old Powhatan courthouse. This was the first day that historical documents and books were brought into the vault.

Jane Wilkerson from the Arkansas History Commission opened a box and showed me the contents.

"These are the school census records from Craighead County that were recently donated by the Social Security office in Jonesboro."

This first collection of books and records was brought from the Arkansas History Commission collection in Little Rock. Also office furniture for the employees and visitors.

Within the next couple of weeks the archives will be moving documents from a closer locale.

Wilkerson, "We will be getting the collection from Arkansas State University of the Lawrence County Probate, Circuit Court Records, Chancery Court Records, things like that."

Although she will not be running NEARA Wilkerson and her team will be setting up the archive. She says it's much easier to start from scratch.

"Actually it's much better because we can set it up the way we run it. There's no previous order and it makes it actually a lot easier."

The vast majority of documents and books will be kept in a climate controlled room with it's massive vault door. This part of the building will not be open to the public.

The building itself is on State Park Property for a good reason.

Corinne Fletcher is the Superintendent of the Powhatan Historic State Park. Her crew will oversee the building but the inside will be conducted by others.

"The folks that are going to operate this building, the staff will be members of the Arkansas History Commission. We both belong to the Department of Parks and Tourism."

When fully operational the building will house much of the history of Northeast Arkansas to be used by the public and park interpreters.

Wilkerson, "A place where they can do research and also a place where individuals around can come in and do genealogy as well. It's coverage area will go as far as Baxter County and will cover down to Independence and Jackson and over to the Tennessee border from there.

No definite date has been set for the official opening. Fletcher says it will probably be sometime after the first of the year.

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